Russia: Residents of 5 villages in Ulyanovskaya protest against construction of cement factory by Chinese company Anhui Conch Cement over environmental concerns; company responds

In Ulyanovsk, the opponents of the construction of a Chinese cement factory belonging to the Anhui Conch Company intend to conduct a protest on 6 October 2017.

The residents of 5 villages in Ulyanovskaya oblast’ [territorial unit]– Soldatskaya Tashla, Yasashnaya Tashla, Skugareevka, Podkurovka and Stogovka – have been leading a persistent fight against a cement factory belonging to a Chinese company “Anhui Conch”. 

In 2015, Anhui Conch cement company, the government of the Ulyanovskaya oblast’ and the Corporation for development of the Ulyanovskaya oblast’ signed an investment agreement on the construction of a cement factory. Residents learned about the alleged dangerous construction project in the end of June 2017, and became concerned about the sudden change of their lands’ status. Local residents have many grievances regarding the Sengeleevsky plant: noise, contaminated air, limited access to water. The state Cement village is in could not be worse...People are not only concerned about the cement dust that would appear in case of factory launch. The lands, where raw materials for cement manufacturing are located, constitute a massive woodland covering an area about 800 hectares. Local residents and people from the city come there for mushroom and berry picking. There are water springs as well.

On 4 March 2018, another assembly of the residents of Podkurovka and Yasashnaya Tashla villages took place. However, the citizens were not able to have a calm conversation with their elected member.

In June 2018, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Anhui Conch Cement to respond to the allegations, the company provided the response below.

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Company response
20 June 2018

Anhui Conch response to reports on the construction of cement factory in Ulyanovsk, Russia

Author: Anhui Conch Cement

[Unofficial English translation provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre - original text in Chinese available here]

…Conch’s production lines use the new drying process and have the strictest online environmental monitoring and control, from raw materials to production to packaging and transportation...Our environmental standards are even higher than international and European standards. We can also use waste heat from production lines to generate electricity and incinerate urban domestic waste in our kilns. This is a genuinely environmentally friendly project - and not, as claimed by the opposition party for ulterior motives, a traditional dirty and low-standard wet-process plant…

[B]ack when the opposition started maliciously attacking Conch and the Ulyanovsk government under the banner of environmentalism, Levitas Lev, head of a genuine Ulyanovsk non-governmental environmental association, made an authoritative statement. He said that, as a non-governmental environmentalist, he had personally visited a Conch cement plant in China, recorded video about its environmental protection techniques, and fully approved of Conch’s modern and environmentally friendly processes and supported the building of the local plant…

[The] chairman of the Ulyanovsk government Smekalin held an expert hearing, which was broadcast live on television. Over 10 well-known experts from relevant sectors in Ulyanovsk attended, and several representatives of the opposition also accepted invitations to attend. Based on the location of the Conch plant and the manufacturing processes to be used, experts in environmental protection, forestry, mining and water resources gave expert and systematic responses on mining, forest protection and groundwater safety…

On August 25, 2017, a report with the Ulyan Truth website mixed with the “hunger-strikers” incognito, with many spoken to saying “We can eat in the evening, someone’s bringing us barbeque and food,” and “I’m retired and bored at home, they were paying so I came along…”

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Company response
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Author: Anhui Conch Cement

…海螺水泥生产线采用当今世界最先进的新型干法生产工艺,从源头到生产过程再到水泥成品包装发运,全部采取最严格的在线环保监测和控制技术…环保要求甚至高于国际及欧洲环保标准,此外,我们还可以利用水泥熟料生产线的余热进行发电、利用水泥窑处理城市生活垃圾,是真正的环保项目,而绝非别有用心的反对派口中所描述的传统水泥湿法工艺脏、乱、差的项目…

早在反对派以环保名义恶意攻击海螺工厂和乌州政府之初,乌州真正的民间环保协会主席利维塔斯.列夫先生就曾作出权威发声。他表示,自己作为民间环保人士,曾亲自去过中国的海螺工厂实地考察,还现场录制了工厂的环保视频资料,十分肯定海螺水泥现代化的环保工艺,支持海螺在当地建厂…

乌州政府斯梅卡林主席主持召开专家听证会,会议采用电视现场直播的方式。来自乌州相关行业的10 多位知名专家参会,多名反对派代表也应邀参会。会上,来自环保、林业、矿产资源、水资源等领域的各位专家结合海螺厂区位置及生产工艺流程,从专业角度系统回答了矿山开采、林地保护、地下水源安全等问题…

2017 年8 月25 日,“乌里扬真相”网站记者深入到“绝食”民众中进行暗访,有多名受访者表示“晚上就可以吃饭,有人会送来烧烤和食物”,“退休在家也闲着无事,他们给钱我们就来了”…

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Author: Anhui Conch Cement

…海螺水泥生產線採用當今世界最先進的新型乾法生產工藝,從源頭到生產過程再到水泥成品包裝發運,全部採取最嚴格的在線環保監測和控制技術…環保要求甚至高於國際及歐洲環保標準,此外,我們還可以利用水泥熟料生產線的餘熱進行發電、利用水泥窯處理城市生活垃圾,是真正的環保項目,而絕非別有用心的反對派口中所描述的傳統水泥濕法工藝臟、亂、差的項目…

早在反對派以環保名義惡意攻擊海螺工廠和烏州政府之初,烏州真正的民間環保協會主席利維塔斯.列夫先生就曾作出權威發聲。他表示,自己作為民間環保人士,曾親自去過中國的海螺工廠實地考察,還現場錄製了工廠的環保視頻資料,十分肯定海螺水泥現代化的環保工藝,支持海螺在當地建廠…

烏州政府斯梅卡林主席主持召開專家聽證會,會議採用電視現場直播的方式。來自烏州相關行業的10 多位知名專家參會,多名反對派代表也應邀參會。會上,來自環保、林業、礦產資源、水資源等領域的各位專家結合海螺廠區位置及生產工藝流程,從專業角度系統回答了礦山開採、林地保護、地下水源安全等問題…

2017 年8 月25 日,“烏里揚真相”網站記者深入到“絕食”民眾中進行暗訪,有多名受訪者表示“晚上就可以吃飯,有人會送來燒烤和食物”,“退休在家也閒著無事,他們給錢我們就來了”…

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Article
3 March 2018

Instigators from the Ministry of Internal Affairs have been dispatched to the protesters meeting against Chinese cement plant

Author: ULNFOX

[Unofficial translation provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre]

Today, on 4 March 2018, another assembly of the residents of Podkurovka and Yasashnaya Tashla villages took place, to discuss further joint actions and to demonstrate to Governor Morozov’s administration that a protest is getting ready to go into an active phase at any moment. The assemblies took place as part of the meetings with a parliament member Alexey Kurinny.

However, the citizens were not able to have a calm conversation with their elected member – Vice Governor Olga Nikitenko dispatched her staff and free-lance instigators, as well as local supporters of environmental contamination, who tried to sabotage the event.

One can only thank the civil servants who discredited themselves, the ruling political party and the corrupt Governor in the eyes of the population.

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Article
2 October 2017

The destinies of Russia and China are being decided in the Ulyanovsk woods – a joke?

Author: Igor Yadroshnikov, Bellona (Russia)

[Unofficial translation provided by Business & Human Rights Resource Centre]

In Ulyanovsk, the opponents of the construction of a Chinese cement factory belonging to the Anhui Conch Company intend to conduct a protest on 6 October 2017. Aleksey Kurinny, a parliament member providing support to them, announced that public manifestation has been permitted.

Over the past several months, the residents of 5 villages in Ulyanovskaya oblast’ [territorial unit]– Soldatskaya Tashla, Yasashnaya Tashla, Skugareevka, Podkurovka and Stogovka – have been leading a persistent fight against a cement factory belonging to a Chinese company “Anhui Conch”. Protesters had serious intentions from the start, but the authorities did not understand that. The authorities of the Ulyanovskaya oblast’ turned a local environmental protest into a trans-regional and political act. The opponents of the factory and of its supporters in the local administration decided to strive for resignation of the Governor Morozov.

It all started peacefully. In 2015, Anhui Conch cement company, the government of the Ulyanovskaya oblast’ and the Corporation for development of the Ulyanovskaya oblast’ signed an investment agreement on the construction of a cement factory. In 2016, the issue has been discussed at a session of the Council for the trans-regional cooperation of the Volga Federal District and the upper and middle streams of the Yangtze River, which took place in Ulyanovsk. In June 2017, a delegation from the Ulyanovskaya oblast’ went to China, where the Governor discussed the details of the project with the company board members.

Residents learned about dangerous construction project in the end of June 2017, after an attempt to conduct a public hearing in Skugareevka village in the Terengulsky department, where the authorities intended to quietly lay the groundwork for future developments, so to say. In order to build a factory, it is necessary to change the status of the lands from agricultural to urban settlement.

Local residents became concerned about the sudden change of their lands’ status. This is when they learnt about a decision to set up a cement factory with a production power of 5 thousand tons of cement per day in a picturesque, ecologically clean area. When they learnt that, they rebelled.

Obviously, Chinese businessmen and local authorities immediately declared that the factory presented no risks, and, moreover, would bring a billion roubles per year in the local budget, creating 400 jobs for the residents of the Terengulsky district, and would provide financing for infrastructural and social projects. Cement would be transported through closed carriers, and open casts would be remediated.

As expected, local residents did not believe that. Not just because of their historic memory from the Soviet times preventing them from trusting the authorities, but also because they have seen actual examples of functioning cement plants: Novoulyanovskiy and Sengileevskiy.

Those factories belong to the Eurocement Group. This international industrial giant is among the 5 biggest cement companies in the world and declares its commitment to environmental principles. When this company entered the region, local authorities promised that it would bring jobs, increase budget and that all environmental norms would be observed.

However, as the facts show, these promises have not been fulfilled.

Local residents have many grievances regarding the Sengeleevsky plant: noise, contaminated air, limited access to water. The state Cement village is in could not be worse.

“Ulpressa” web resource investigated the conditions of the factory functioning. The plant functions with no safety zone around it. It does not fulfil the investment agreement, but benefits from the tax exemptions amounting to hundreds of millions roubles.

Local blogger Camille’ Bagautdinov demonstrated how Eurocement “remediates” its open pits in the Ulyonovskaya oblast’, which left enormous areas completely devastated. At the look of that, a question comes to mind immediately – why would one build another cement factory and destroys what’s left of nature?

People are not only concerned about the cement dust that would appear in case of factory launch. The lands, where raw materials for cement manufacturing are located, constitute a massive woodland covering an area about 800 hectares. Local residents and people from the city come there for mushroom and berry picking. There are water springs as well.

Land remediation project will follow after the concession period is over – in 49 years. Afterwards, another 100 years will be needed for the forest to grow again.

Another well-founded concern is related to the fact that digging a pit dozens meters deep would disturb hydrologic balance. The consequences are unpredictable, but it is clear, that they will be very negative.

People suggest organic agricultural production instead of cement manufacturing.

 Thus, against this background, the assurances of Chinese businessmen and administration lack credibility, according to local residents. At one point, a social movement “For clean environment” emerged, and its members collected 3 500 signatures against the factory.

On 22 August, a tent city emerged along the federal motorway Ulyanovsk-Syzran’. Its inhabitants went on a hunger strike. They organized an assembly and invited the Governor to address the people and explain what was going on. All in vain. Regional Prime Minister, Alexander Smekalin, who bore the brunt of public discontent and listened to the protesters, was not able to calm the public and give satisfactory answers to their questions. When the people were tired to wait for an adequate answer, they attempted to get an audience with the local administration’ members.

They tried to get into the administrative building and even set up a tent at its entrance in order to meet the head of the region, but security service used their special division to stop the people from meeting the elected governor.

The opponents of the Chinese factory are not being detained or attacked yet, but charges against them have been pressed. A farmer Galina Mavrina and two retired women from Podkurovka village and Yasashnaya Tashla village have been prosecuted over an attempt to meet the governor. The judge of the Leninskiy district court Ildar Haibullov ordered them to pay an administrative fine of 10 thousand roubles.

At one point, the Governor did express his point of view. Unfortunately, again not at a meeting with the protesters. Sergey Morozov announced at a meeting with municipal deputies, held on 14 September, that “the district, the region and the country, all needed this factory”. In response, the opponents of the cement plant organized an assembly and announced that Governor’s position on the issue transformed their protest into a political one. They presented the Governor with an ultimatum: either he changes his position or resigns.

The activists also decided to attract president Putin’s attention to this problem. They organized a flash mob on the eve of his visit to the region (22 September 2017), spelling a plea with their bodies saying “Putin, save our forest”. A video shot from a helicopter is available online.

On 23 September 2017, the movement “For clean environment” announced that they would collect signatures for resignation of the Governor. They are planning to collect 100 000 signatures in the villages where the protests take place – Ulyanovsk, Syzran’, Tolyatti, Novoulyanovsk – and other places.

Evidently, the authorities cannot ignore any longer a well-founded protest of the local residents, treating it, however, as an extremely annoying situation. It is not excluded that they will try to portray it as extremism. An observation made by a local political scientist attests to that. It would seem ridiculous, were it not for the fact that the author of this observation is a distinguished political consultant Lev Pavluchenkov, who helped the current governor Morozov to come to power at the last elections, and who is also the governor’s current consultant.

“Why this current situation in Ulyanovsk and the events that took place in the region last week are dangerous? This type of situations, when armed people break into an office of a Chinese company, when they block the work of the entire regional government, is an evidence of the use of “Maidan” methods. Today, I would be concerned about the safety of Chinese citizens on the territory of Ulyanovskaya oblast’. What is going to happen, if the protest will follow “Maidan” scenario with incitements, “celestial hundreds”? It could even lead to deterioration of the Chinese-Russian international relationships”.

It is what it is. No more, no less. The destiny of the world superpowers are decided on the fields of Ulyanovsk.

 

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