Johan Nerlov writes about the blood red river in Russia.
You might have heard the stories a while back of the mysterious event in the Arctic Circle of Russia, near the City of Norilsk. The Daldykan River, one of the world’s most northern, turned a blood red. Many of the locals believed it to be a simple, and accidental, leak of one of the nearby plants owned by Norilsk Nickel, the largest smelter of nickel and palladium worldwide. Though at first many of the local authorities turned a blind eye, within hours of the news leaving Russia, the Environment Ministry launched an investigation on the alleged pipe leakage.
People expected the investigation, as many do in Russia, to take months, but with environmental activists, placing immense pressure on both the government and Norilsk Nickel, the truth soon came to light. One week earlier Norilsk Nickel refused to release a statement, but now it has owned up, and states that heavy rainfall led to the breakage of a filtration dam and therefore the spillage of tons of chemical and toxic waste into the river, causing it to turn blood red.
“You can’t just say that it’s no big deal.”
Along with admitting it was their fault, Norilsk Nickel added that the impact on the surrounding wildlife would be “minimal, with no cause for concern”. This statement has received much skepticism and controversy, especially by the locals who say it is too early to tell. Greenpeace Russia official Alexei Kiselyov said, “You can’t just say that it’s no big deal. Right now there is a ministry of environment commission there.” Kiselyov said the investigation was difficult as the infrastructure is located in a difficult location, but says that he blames the company and especially their workers stating, “They don’t care about polluting, because they all have homes on the mainland,” he said, referring to central Russia.
Although this event has caused much trouble to the locals, and particularly to the indigenous populations, this incident is one of a growing number in Russia and other major mining countries. Many say that if this continues it could have catastrophic consequences to the global and local environment.