Sunday of December 11 was frosty and sunny in Syktyvkar. At noon near the Opera and Ballet Theatre of the Republic a rally against merger of the Ministry of Industry, Natural Resources, Energy and Transport and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection gathered a small number of protesters – about forty people including journalists. Some protesters quickly frozen and left before it ended, some were later. Several policemen were were freezing cold at some distance. Parents with children walked around. Kids played angels: fell on a wide snow-covered porch of the theater, made wings on the snow with hands and feet and laughed.
Syktyvkar protesters also did not mind laughing. Apparently, they decided to sting by creativity, not number: on one of the posters Head of the republic Sergey Gaplikov was drinking oil from the sucking bottle in arms of "oil-mother" of the artist Vasya Lozhkin; inscription on another poster stated that even kittens are against merger of the Ministry of Industry and the Ministry of Natural Resources.
The meeting organizer, the chairman of "Komi Environmentalists" NGO Nina Ananina was the first to speak. She spoke about the essence of the problem:
'The new agency says we will not forget the environmental component. But it also could not forget it before. Nobody would license them [for a certain type of activity] without a large block of environmental management. But earlier this license was made by an independent agency, and industrialists could not do anything without its signature. Now there would be one signature – of Minister of Industry.'
Social activist recalled that the Ministry of Natural Resources was also engaged in the examination of any activity. Independent experts hired by the Ministry of Natural Resources took the decision to start the production process or its modernization. Ananina was sure that examination requirements would be reduced after funding of the Ministry of Industry.
'We believe in lobbying interests industry,' Ananina said. 'Let's not forget that the first thing the new minister [of industry, natural resources, energy and transport of Komi Nikolai Gerasimov] said that gold would be mined in the national park "Yugyd va". It's not surprising, the new minister was interested in gold mining in the National Park since the 90s. Today, the prosecutor's office announced any activity associated with the extraction of gold in "Yugyd va" illegal. Despite this, the new minister says about gold mining with aplomb.
Nina Ananina claimed that there were gold reserves in the national park for ten years. But they wanted to carry out the extraction on the Kozhim river, somehow clearing the channel of the annual Pechora oil spills.
'They [the manufacturers] will leave, and what will remain to us and our children? Lunar landscape? We got the distinct feeling that the decree, signed on 17 October, was not thought out to the end, risks and conflicts of interest were not calculated. We do not even know who wrote it,' with these words she recalled a recent meeting of representatives of the community members with the Komi administration, where environmentalists have asked for a legally reasoned opinion about this decree. Officials refused to show it, citing the fact that the search of the document would take a long time.
Ananina suggested that such a document may not even exist, and asked the participants to adopt a resolution for the abolition of the decree of the merger of ministries. The initiators of the meeting did not know whether the decision to merge the ministries was agreed with someone, as it was signed without consulting the social activists and the scientific community.
Deputy Chairman of the Committee to Save Pechora Ivan Ivanov took his word. He said that the protest movement against the merger of ministries began with a reference to a different level officials, including the president. The activist complained that the Head of the Komi Sergey Gaplikov forwarded their letter to the head of the Ministry of Industry Nikolai Gerasimov.
'In our opinion, it is a violation of the law on the procedure for consideration of appeals of citizens: the one who is authorized to respond to our question, did not respond. In a letter from the Russian Federation president's administration was virtually the same text as in Gerasimov's response. We did not see the answers to the point: procedure of federal and regional environmental supervision, elimination of conflict of interests,' Ivanov said. According to him, meeting with officials showed no dialogue with the authorities. 'This problem is closer to villagers. They see the consequences [of extraction of natural resources and deforestation] and know what can happen to them without proper control over the miners. Of course, we also had claims to the Ministry of Natural Resources. But there was who to call and who to demand. We believe that this decision could be born not in the republic, but as a will of Moscow. The country needs money – a lot and immediately. It is believed that they can sacrifice the environment, people. We believe that this is not acceptable, we do not agree with it totally!'
Activist of the CSP said that after the meeting in Syktyvkar they planned an extended meeting of the Committee to Save Pechora on December 17 in Izhma. Protest activities will be expanded if necessary. There is a possibility of the republican referendum for the abolition of the decree to merge the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Industry.
Human rights defender Ernest Mezak also decided to speak. He said that he has been involved in the environmental movement for a long time. Started to deal with problems of the National Park "Yugyd va" in 1994, he met with the current head of the Ministry of Industry.
'He is a very nice and sincere person, writes poems,' Mezak described Gerasimov, 'but lives in some world of his own. Protection of the environment can not be commited to such a good but narrow-minded man. I would not commit it to Polshvedkin [former Minister of Natural Resources of the Komi Roman Polshvedkin] either, because the Ministry of Natural Resources was also a compromise between the resource and environmental components. They estimated amount of gold of "Yugyd va" is enough for ten years. I assure you that it will end in two years. The essence of the activity of geologists often boils down to charge up assessments [of reserves of mineral deposits] to the maximum, to get enough money to live in our difficult economic situation.
According to Mezak, the republic needs the Ministry of Ecology, and to merge these to ministries means "to harness the restive steed and timid deer to one cart".
‘We had environmental department till 1999,' he reminded, ‘it was closed by our esteemed President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. And the first head of the Komi Yury Spiridonov did it before him [in the framework of the republic].
Human rights defender handed a megaphone to activist Nina Ananina, who read out a resolution with the requirement to cancel the merger of ministries. Frozen and slightly danced protesters took it unanimously.
Briefly, "so as not to freeze the audience," the activist of the CSP Valentina Semyashkina took her word.
'We [Committee to Save Pechora] have worked with all the structures that represent nature conservation in the country,' she said. 'We were not always happy, but at least we could work with them. I have no idea how to do it with the Ministry of Industry, it is the same thing as working with "Lukoil". CSP tries to work with the company so that it reduces the temperature and does not flood Pechora oil basin so actively. But it only gets worse.
According to Semyashkina, the same situation exists with the Ministry of Industry, because its goals coincide with the goals of the mining companies. She suggested that a small number of protesters can be explained not only by frost: the inhabitants of the cities, unlike the inhabitants of Pechora, rarely face with environmental problems.
‘Now many cities and regions [of the republic] held conferences of the Komi people. Almost all the people are unanimously opposed the merge of ministries. People faced with carved woods on Udora, in Pechora – with oil-flooded rivers. Unfortunately, the new government of the republic completely ignores it. Therefore, we need to be more active, including syktyvkar residents,' the activist said.
Participants of the rally managed to stand in the cold for half an hour, after that they made collective photo and left. Reporter of «7x7» asked Nina Ananina to comment on the action.
'This was the first meeting I organized,' she said. 'We had hoped that there would be at least not less people than in the regions. But the residents of our city simply do not see the negative impact. If there was a sharp spike on the TLD, they would be stirred up. But today, a warm sofa was more important. We called them through social networks and invited personally, appealed to civil society organizations, in particular, we hoped for Syktyvkar branch "Izvatas", but we did not see them today. Previously I did not come at meetings, my task was to explain the problem. I met this challenge, but we did not inspire people. We need to change the approach, to improve speach writing. All those who spoke were sick at heart for environmental issues and were experts in this field. But maybe we need che guevaras? We will look for them.
October 17, the head of Komi Sergey Gaplikov signed a decree on the merger of the Ministry of Industry, Energy and Transport with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection.
October 21, three major civil society organizations – Committee to Save Pechora, "Komi Environmentalists" and "Izvatas" – spoke against merging of departments, writing appeals to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Minister of Natural Resources of Russia Sergey Donskoy, the head of Komi Sergey Gaplikov and the State Council of Komi. The head of the Ministry of Industry Nikolay Gerasimov said that the merger of ministries will not harm the ecology of Komi.
October 22, leader of "Komi Environmentalists" Nina Ananina came to the building of Komi administration with picket against the merger of ministries; she was detained by the police.
October 26, a series of pickets in support of demands of Nina Ananina took place in different regions of Komi.
October 27, social activists protested in Sosnogorsk.
October 28, a petition demanding the return of the Ministry of Natural Resources. At the moment it is signed by about 60 thousand people.
November 14, rally against the merger of ministries in Izhma. Social activists stated that "it was better to stay with a poor watchman than no guard".
November 15, social activists at a meeting with representatives of Komi administration said that they had seen a corruption component in the merger of ministries.
November 20, residents of Ust-Usa and the neighboring took to the streets villages for the preservation of the Ministry of Environment, despite the fact that officials were trying to prevent the holding of action.
November 27, villagers of Mutny Materik came to the rally against the merger of ministries in the thirty-degree frost.
November 28, Syktyvkar City Court fined Nina Ananina for picket.
November 30, public figures appealed to the Komi prosecutor's office to carry out anti-corruption expertise of legal and ministerial decree on the merger.