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About BaikalwatchA letter from Baikal Center
To friends and colleagues and those who are interested in our work,
an up-date on Baikal Center
Only within the framework of the Baikal Center's activities in general an evaluation of any of our projects could be done fairly and completely. Without a bigger context some essential positive developments of a specific project could be easily missed (although, I have to mention even with the risk to sound boastful or biased that: we are really moving with Baikalsk and Baley project, although real results of our ground work will become really feasible much later.). And, again, I'd like to remind you that our main goal is to promote network and coordination for a broader circle.
And we are fairly confident that even now can take credit for broadening a circle of people (through this particular project as well) who are more aware of the real situation at Baley and Baikalsk. One of the most positive outcomes of our project, funded through Save the Children is that at BC we have a really good working team now, that is, in my opinion, half of successes, and itself should be considered as the biggest achievement. And, anyway, an overall idea of the entire project is strengthening of the Baikal Center as an NGO through this specific project.
It means not only that more people are involved, but, what is more essential: more people are involved CONSCIOUSLY. And I believe, those who visited our "headquarters" (we almost settled at our new location, and like that we have a bigger room, and can accommodate more people, although have to admit that it is always crowed anyway. You are welcome to visit and we hope that you like our new office too and it with your own eyes.
Just to provide you with a broader picture, I would give a brief overview of work of BC over the last 6-8 months.
Survey on environmental activism is accomplished, and we are working on putting the results in a format of a directory (Some struggle with software involved, since we don't have funds to pay computer wizards-and wish us a good luck trying to find one who is a Mac Wizard!).A very brief and superficial conclusion of the survey is that (and we knew it before) there are not so many really active "greens" through out our region, that makes work of those who are working even more essential and deserving support. A directory will be available on a disk (for Macintoshes) beginning of June.
One of the most regular routine that I almost forget to mention is information requests. We do answer them as a rule and have a few "regular customers".
We started to develop an agenda for Baikal Ecoforum and already held 2 meetings with "greens" to discuss it in Ulan-Ude and Chita (one more- in Irkutsk is coming soon). The forum is scheduled for November 22-24, and by the end of May we'll send out invitations. The main goal is to give a chance to environmental activists and those who deal with environmental issues professionally from all over one another Baikal region to get together, to learn about one another work first hand and to figure out the best ways of cooperation if such cooperation is desired. Most likely it will be held in Baikalsk. I have to mention that participation will be limited to preselected "candidates" and invitees who shall pay their own expenses. But information will be available to everybody.
Also we are trying to put together weekly information update in Livenet(Zhenay Matapova is helping us to do it).Overall our relationship with mass media is becoming broader and we are establishing a somewhat "regular" pattern in working with Sovetskay Molodezh, radio Baikal Wave, not to mention InterBaikal (as you notice, our Vestnik is always "hosted" by InterBaikal).We hope that our publication in Komsomolskaya Pravda didn't go unnoticed.
Shall I mention a number of workshops that we helped (mainly Olga Moiseeva) to organize and conduct (including Civic Initiative Support,Charity Aid Foundation, Municipal conference of cooperation between NGOs and governmental, seminar on protected areas and environmental education etc, etc., etc.).
We also initiated and are conducting with the assistance of our intern Ariadna Reida and help of Baikal Watch a program for volunteers for Baikalo-Lenskiy reserve (this turns out to be quite a project, and is extremely time consuming. By the way, any desire to work at Lena's headwaters in July? We have 7 people from the US, Europe and Russia so far.). We also in a process of establishing a new program with Seattle based group Cascadia Quest, which works with World Concervation Corp, and, hopefully, a candidate from the Baikal area will take part in their project this summer. (We hope that with a assistnce with Cascadia we'll be able to set up a simular program at Baikal).
I guess, if I don't mention our work with citizen initiatives, you will not have a complete picture. Yes, we continue in one way or the other to assist with sister-city exchanges. And, thanks to South Lake Tahoe folks, we established better links with Baikal municipal government, that is very essential for our Baikalsk project (imagine, city officials offered to held Baikal Ecoforum in Baikalsk and may even provide financial support). And, as you may know, we are still short on funds for this "grand" event).
As for Irkutsk-Eugene, we support (communication, mainly) work of citizen to citizen exchanges ( upcoming schoolchildren exchange and Buryat musicians), the same goes to our support of kids exchange with Columbus,Ohio, cultural exchange which included trip of Mark Sergeev (Irkutsk writer)and Irkutsk Drama Theater. The initiator and inspirer of all the above exchanges is Lida Scloccini and we are happy to assist her the best we can.
Our link and working relationship with Chita Branch of the Baikal Fund are getting stronger and more productive. And recent public hearings (even if officially they were named "scientific readings") on Udokan Copper Mine just an additional prove that our cooperation is productive and rewarding (you may want to double check with Strizhova to see if I am just making something up). Also, a big plus for these hearings was PERC's great contribution and personal participation of David Gordon. By the way, looks, like, finally, PERC and Baikal Center may work "officially" together in the sphere of forestry issues (mainly information distribution). David and I just accomplished our first joint trip to Altai (have nothing to do with Baikal or forest issues,except bringing back grants money to five Baikal groups which were supported by the Board of Global Greengrants Foundation),Chita and Ulan-Ude. (Irkutsk still is not on David's map).We hope that cooperation with PERC will help to bring even greater attention to forest issues at Baikal. Especially now, with all terrible forest fires in the area.
Our long term relationship with SEN (and we really do like work with everybody at SEN!) "produced" (with an assistance of Apple people) 5 more computers (Macintoshes, of course) for the Baikal groups (except that we had a hard time to convince Humanitarian Aid Committee in Moscow (fianlly, thanks to SEN everything is approved!) that we are not going to sell them, thus, we are still hopeful that we may see computers at Baikal sometime soon).We value our long term colleagues and friends and continue the closest cooperation with Baikal Watch. Without support and collaboration with Baikal Watch and Earth Island the very existence of our BC would've been questionable. We try to be in touch with our colleagues and contacts which we established long time ago (we were glad after a years break to see in our office ESD folks), and also we are trying to establish new contacts and connections, also are glad to work closer with Baikalo-Lenskiy Nature Reserve, with Irkutsk Druzhina (we are really happy that they got their first financial support), with FIRN group of Ulan-Ude, with Nature protection Society, Irkutsk Branch and Baley Administration and others. We hope that our long negotiations (I have to admit it is our fault) with Ecologia will finally come to a fruition and some real actions on our behalf will take place.
And now the briefest possible update on our biggest program, which Save the Children supports. We started it in late November. Since then we routinely are collecting and interpreting information on Baikalsk and Baley (many of you saw parts of it in Vestnik and Currents and in Internet), establishing working relationship with various individuals and groups in Russia and the US (many of them with the help of Gary Cook). Conducted four week study tour through the US for project coordinators and participants.
Result of it? During my recent trip to Baley Valentina Dudareva (Baley project coordinator)surprised us with the scale of activity she has developed. A schedule she put together for a brief visit was not less intensive and productive than in the US, and also the confidence she gained in working with people,with involving them to work with the project, her developing ties with the Medical college, which were established thanks to the project (students of this college already conducted for us some work, and in late May will be our principal partners in conducting a survey in Baley). Also we purchased a portable lab to measure radon and thoron in Baley, and upon a completion of two maps (Ecological map of Baley and of Radioactive emissions in the apartment buildings in Baley) measuring chambers will be set, along with alpha-track detectors (500 hundred of them were donated to our project by the 9th EPA district, and we are looking for even more close cooperation with EPA people in San Francisco. We are sure that this cooperation will be productive, especially counting the fact that Shelly Rosenblum - he along with Lois Hill helped us to figure out the best equipment we need- started to take Russian classes. This is also one of the very positive results of our trip). We hope that this independent lab of the Baikal Center (which will be maintained by the Chita Institute of Natural resources) will serve as a base for establishment of permanent radon lab in Zabaikalie and Pribaikalie).
Lee Nusich informed us that a big container with medical supplies for Baley Children's Hospital is about to be shipped of to Russia.(It is a charitable donation of the Northwest Medical Team, worth of tens of thousands of dollars or a hundred millions of roubles).
Well, Baikalsk project is really a difficult one: for one thing: it is in the focus of everybody's attention (as pupil of one's eye), yet, there is no even a hint for a decision that IS taking into account if not everybody's interest, at least, interest of those around Baikal. A recent draft of Federal Program related to Baikal is talking about practically construction of a new, better cellulose plant at Baikalsk. We learned that even the US government commissioned CH2MHill to help to figure out the best possible way to solve the problem. Even Greenpeace, Russia are trying to gather everybody under green flags and "march" against the mill. Well, we are trying to do the best we can too.
Arkadiy Kalikhman (sometimes it seems that there are at least three people in one) coordinates the Baikalsk part of the project. And due to his coordination efforts our BC is a "member" of the Council of Public Organizations. This council was formed with a specific goal to held a public evaluation of the draft of the program mentioned above. And organization of public hearings, as well as work of experts was only a part of work that took place in April. Public hearings were held and there is a number of experts evaluations which will be broadly publicized as well. And one of the experts was Kalikhman himself. We are workinng with the Baikalsk Municipal administration, and our dialogue is positive and in progress (more about this later, upon achievments of actual result).We also met with the Mill administration and found that they are open to a dialogue. Materials on the latest development related to Baikalsk Plant we'll send out next week. Our special issue in Russian will be "out of press" (that means: homemade with a help of our Xerox machine) by the 18th of May. Next week we will start preparation for a public meeting in Baikalsk. It will be not "public hearings", but we just would like to share information we gained with a broader circle of people. In close cooperation with an Environmental Center of Victor Khotilovich, who after his trip to the US agreed to become an assistant to coordinator, we accomplished a survey among Baikalsk citizens. The results will be published next week.
And one of the last, but not the least feasible results of our work in April is a development of a base computer model which will enable everybody to understand the potential of sustainable development at Baikalsk. The model has been developed by Vladimir Tyrtyshnyi, also a participant of a study tour to the USA. Practically anybody who is concerned with the proposed development for Baikalsk plant will have a chance (with the assistance of Vladimir)to "track" consequences of this or that type of development at Baikalsk.
An IBM computer (finally, IBM! But I personally will stay faithful to my old Mac!)will be installed in the office next week, after some safety measures for the office will be in place. You are welcome to get acquainted with Tyrtyhnyi's base model for Baikalsk.