Pipeline on shore of world’s biggest lake is “risky business”

Plans to build an oil pipeline by the shore of the world's biggest and cleanest body of freshwater were challenged on Friday as Greenpeace warned investors about the massive financial risks associated with the project.

The $11.5 pipeline that would bring Russian oil from East Siberia to the Pacific coast is scheduled to pass along the earthquake-prone shore of lake Baikal, threatening it with oil spills (see related story).

Construction should start soon, but Russian state pipeline company Transneft has not yet secured funds for the project. Transneft chairman Semyon Vainshtok is expected to talk to potential investors at the Russian Economic Forum in London next week.

Roman Vazhenkov of Greenpeace told edie: “Investors may think this is a very profitable project, but possible environmental damage has not been calculated, and no-one knows how much compensation would have to be paid to local people in case of spills. All this will have an impact on the profitability of the pipeline.

“Transneft has provided false data in the past, and has been known to go back on its promises to investors. Working with Transneft is a risky business,” he said.

A group of European banks that includes Citigroup may provide $2bn for the first part of the project, according to the NGO Bakwatch.

A Russian state environmental assessment finally gave the pipeline the go-ahead last month, after five experts who objected to the project were removed from the panel and 34 other were added in what environmentalists describe as a blatant case of political meddling.

More details about the pipeline and lake Baikal can be found at the Greenpeace Russia and Baikal Environmental Wave websites.

Goska Romanowicz

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