Sign a Petition in Defense of the Khimki Forest

This petition was drafted by Ekooborona (Eco-Defense), the grassroots organization founded by Yevgenia Chirikova, leader of the Movement to Defend the Khimki Forest.

Here is the full text of the petition in English:

To President of Russia Mr. Medvedev

Dear Mr. President,

We, undersigned, ask you to review the new Moscow – St. Petersburg toll motorway placement (section 15 – 58 km) in order to minimize environmental damage to the Khimki Forest Park’s eco-system. In the preliminary Act of the Choice of Land Plot there were two options alternative to the currently chosen motorway option through the center of Khimki Forest Park. Both alternatives did not left the Forest Park completely intact, but they inflicted substantially lower damage to its eco-system than the currently chosen option. Nevertheless, the alternative options were discarded without any serious technical and economical analysis, under doubtful pretexts, without any analysis of public opinion.

Moreover, according to independent experts (including the director of Russian Scientific Institute for Transportation Mr. Mikhail Blinkin), there is an option for the road placement which almost don’t require any clearing of forests. The conclusion is based on the known plans of extension of the new Moscow – St. Petersburg motorway to the territory of Moscow (segment 0 – 15 km) within the framework of the so-called “Severnaya Rokada” project. In this project, the use of the area adjoining to Oktyabrskaya railroad is planned for the motorway construction. Such an approach allows one to build the road along a virtually direct line, within a very densely populated area, without clearing of forest parks and green zones, but also without displacement of population.

No one among the perpetrators of the project in its current state has given any plausible answer to the following question: Why the motorway is diverted to almost 10 kilometers from the direct line making a “loop” within Khimki Forest Park on the section 15 – 58 km instead of following the same way along the existing railroad as it is planned for the segment 0 – 15 km?

The option of routing the motorway along the existing railroad is mentioned in official study results by the project’s concessioner (NWCC LLC – a daughter structure of Vinci group). It is admitted that there is still no technical and economical analysis for this option. It is extremely strange, since this option seems to be an optimal one taking into account its technical and environmental features. Indeed, the motorway would be almost direct, about 10 km shorter than according to the officially adopted option via Khimki Forest Park. The road would approach densely populated zones of Khimki only within a section about 1 km in length (just after passing the Moscow – Volga Channel, on its right bank). It is better than the currently chosen option. Indeed, today it is planned, for the motorway construction, to clear a unique forest strip separating residential buildings of “Levoberezhny” district from a giant open dumping ground. The dumping ground makes environmental condition in this district extremely poor even without auxiliary negative effect of both the clearing of the forest strip, and construction of the motorway.

In case of building the new motorway along Oktyabrskaya railroad, it will subsequently cross the following objects after passing the Moscow – Volga channel:

• A small industrial zone on the right bank of the channel,

• The territories of a marketplace and of a shopping square,

• An existing automobile bridge over Oktyabrskaya railroad.

Then the motorway will be confined to a long industrial zone around the railroad, almost to the very end of Khimki Town. No one of the above mentioned objects has a value compatible with the value of Khimki Forest Park. Moreover, the use of an overhead option for the construction of the road allows one to use further the shopping areas as well as industrial zones below it.

The only green zone that can be cleared for such a project is on the left bank of the Moscow-Volga channel. Its total length is about a few hundred meters – which is far better than according to the existing variant where the motorway crosses forest lands on a segment about 10 km in length.

Since the motorway’s option near Oktyabrskaya railroad is about 10 km shorter than the currently chosen option via Khimki Forest Park – its realization may become cheaper. There may appear a possibility to use remaining funds to make a tunnel where the road will be passing near residential buildings (less than 1 km in length, approximately – from the marketplace to the existing bridge over Oktyabrskaya railroad). Such an option would be an ideal one from both technical and environmental points of view.

Moreover, another suitable option is completely not considered – i.e., construction of the new motorway along the existing Leningradskoe Shosse. Within Moscow (including bridge over Moscow – Volga channel) the width of the existing highway was recently enlarged up to 7 – 8 rows in each direction within the frameworks of the project “Bol’shaya Leningradka”. In Khimki, this road ends up in a “shopping street” of 3 or 4 rows in each direction. The enlargement of the existing street (or building of a parallel motorway) is impeded by adjoining shopping malls and their parking lots. It seems than in the present state of things the partial use of the shopping malls’ lands for the motorway construction would not lead to negative social consequences compatible with ones in case of building the motorway through the forest park territory. Moreover, the use of overhead option for the motorway construction would allow one to use the lands below it, for example, as parking lots.

According to the study of Transparency International – R, the choice of the existing option of the motorway placement within Khimki Forest Park can be linked to a conflict of interest in the upper levels of Russian Ministry for Transportation. It is known that the present Minister of Transportation, Mr. Levitin is, the same time, one of the chief executives of Sheremetyevo Airport, as well as of the largest commercial carrier based there – Aeroflot Company. No doubt, from the point of view of the airport the current option that allows the motorway to approach Sheremetyevo airport is an advantageous one. But this option is below any criticism from the point of view of handling the transport flow between Moscow and St.Petersburg. For example, according to the mentioned study of the project concessioner, the choice of the current option (i.e., following a “loop” within forest lands) leads to drop of the planned transport flow speed by at least 30 km/h. International expertise shows that the motorways must be as direct as possible, and exits to airports and other similar objects must be arranged as separate local roads, with no damage to overall technical ratings of motorways.

Moreover, there are well-known plans for commercial development of forest lands on both sides of the motorway by Moscow District Governor office. These plans are described in Decree 358/16 by Governor Gromov (now cancelled), as well as in the Plan for Mosow District Territory Planning (July 11, 2007) (still actual). Commercial development of adjoining forest lands is, according to experts in transportation, proven fatal for the very idea of the motorway (as it has already happened, for example, with Moscow Ring Road).

We ask you to cancel the decision about the motorway placement on the lands of Khimki Forest Park, as well as immediate stop of any works performing in connection with this option. We demand you to authorize detailed examination of all the available alternative options for the motorway placement, first of all – of the option of the motorway’s placement along Oktyabrskaya railroad. The examination should be carried out by an independent expert commission, ideally – with the participation of Russian and international experts. After this, an open public discussion must be carried out on the final choice of the motorway placement.

Please sign the petition here.

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Filed under activism, open letters, manifestos, appeals, Russian society

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