Arctic clean-up expedition launched
Russia plans to spend $70 million on environmental clean-up of Arctic territories in the coming three years. The first large expedition is ready to sail from Arkhangelsk to Franz Josefs Land.
In the period between the early 1930s and 1990, Franz Josef Archipelago saw intensive civilian and military development, which left it badly polluted. Visiting the archipelago in 2010, then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin described it as a ‘giant rubbish tip’ and highlighted the need for high environmental standards in the region and called for clean-up of the Soviet-era industrial wastes.
During his working trip to Arkhangelsk region last Monday President Putin met with the participants of Russia’s first “garbage expedition” to the Franz Josef Archipelago. The expedition is organized by the Russian Geographical Society together with the Natural Resources Ministry, the Sevmorgeo Monitoring Center and the Polar Foundation.
Two expeditionary vessels will depart from the port of Arkhangelsk to the island of Alexandra Land in the next few days, carrying 135 crew members. The expedition is planned to last through October.
The president describes the upcoming expedition as a ‘landmark event’: “This confirms our increased level of activity in the Arctic. We are going to step up our efforts here along several lines: development of new deposits, building of new infrastructure, first of all ports, roads and bridges”. “We will of course also be strengthening our military component here”, he added, according to the Kremlin’s web site.
Russia is ready to increase funding for environmental clean-up programs in the Arctic. “A total of 2.3 billion rubles ($70 million) has been earmarked for that over the next three years, 2012 through 2014,” Putin said, adding that spending levels could be raised if necessary.
The upcoming expedition is expected to eliminate up to 8,000 tons of waste, including 70,000 barrels of fuel and about 3,000 tons of lubricants. The waste material all stems from the military base which in the Soviet period was based in the archipelago.
The first, tiny start of Russia’s grand clean-up program took place in 2010, when the vessel “Mikhail Somov” sailed from Arkhangelsk to Franz Josefs Land to collect some 1000 old barrels.