GFMC: Environmentalists Denounce World Bank Forestry Loan to Russia

Environmentalists Denounce World Bank Forestry Loan to Russia

Agence France Presse, 12 July 2000

Russian and international ecologists on Tuesday chastized the World Bank for what they said was a decision to accord a 60 million dollar forestry loan to Russia just days after President Vladimir Putin abolished two key environmental protection bodies. A letter to World Bank president James Wolfensohn from representatives of 67 conservation groups also called on the institution to suspend funding for all Russian environmental projects until the functions of the two bodies were restored. The World Bank had no immediate comment. The letter denounced a May 17 decree from Putin that liquidated the Russian State Committee on Ecology and the Federal Forest Service and transferred their functions, it said, to the Ministry of Natural Resources. “With this action, the system of government-independent environmental control in the area of natural resource use, which had been put together over decades, was destroyed,” according to the signatories. They charged that the ministry’s primary goal is “the expansion of commercial activity and not the protection of the environment” and that it was therefore incapable of carrying out the mandate of the state ecology committee and the forest service. But the World Bank, just days after the Putin decree, went ahead and approved a 60 million dollar loan to Russia to help finance a forest management project, according to the letter. The loan, which the Bank announced here May 24, was for a campaign to be carried out by the Federal Forest Service, one of the two scrapped agencies, the letter said, adding that “the legality of a loan intended for an abolished agency must be questioned.” “A few months ago,” according to David Gordon of the Pacific Environment and Resources Center, “President Wolfensohn assured us that the Bank would conduct its operations in a democratic and environmentally sustainable manner. “To continue with these loans would be to show blatant disregard for the environment and public health in Russia. It almost looks like a case of collusion between the Bank, the Putin regime and the extractive industries.” Aleksandr Arbachakov of Siberia’s Taiga Research and Protection Agency added: “President Putin is leading us down a path towards environmental harm that can impact countries beyond Russia and even the ecological balance of the planet.”

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