Russia's Prime Minister vowed on March 12th to audit a prospective water bottling plant on the shores of the world's deepest freshwater lake, a listed world heritage site.
Asked by a member of a sports team in Siberia for his comment, Dmitry Medvedev told Russian news agencies that he had received multiple complaints and that he would order officials to check that the plant on the shores of Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia complies with environmental standards.
He added, however, that he was not ready to say yet “if the plant is bad or good.”
Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It has a special microclimate that accommodates the migration of many different types of birds.
According to AP, reports of the construction of the bottling plant in the Siberian village of Kultuk have angered local residents, with more than 880,000 people signing an online petition, urging authorities to scrap the construction plans. One of the reasons for the resentment is the fact that most of the water is going to be exported to neighbouring China and South Korea.
Local officials argue that the project is not damaging to the environment and will provide much-needed jobs.
There are no major factories or industrial production near Baikal, which holds around 20% of the world's freshwater reserves. In an environmental scandal, a major paper mill there was shut down in 2013 following intense pressure from activists.