Valday Reserve at risk

Publish date: July 2, 2007

The June edition of the Moscow magazine Sim comments that “exploding development projects and tourism are threatening Valday with an environmental catastrophe.”

The state residence “Dolgiye Borody” is located on Lake Uzhin, 20 kilometers away from Valday in the Novgorod region. This is the very residence that Russian President Vladimir Putin often arrives at by helicopter. The head of state’s addiction to Valday has created a lot of interest among the big city elite; the magazine reports that the first Vice-Premier Dmitry Medvedev, Vice-Premier Sergei Naryshkin and St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matviyenko, as well as other VIPs have had summer houses built in Valday.

The number of tourists and religious worshipers from the Iversky monastery has increased, but the city has been unable to deal with the tidal wave of guests; the city sewer has to be flushed out 90 times a year; straight into the Valday Lake. Georgy Zhdanov, director of the Valday National Park, commented that “a pilgrimage center for two thousand people is being erected on the Iversky monastery’s territory. Supposedly all sewage dumps will be directed into the Valday Lake, which is inadmissible by law. Even though the lake’s water is completely changed only once every forty years, our hands are tied because the monastery is Vladimir Putin’s personal patron.”

Moreover, the director is worried by the local authorities’ sale of land for housing construction on the border of the national park’s territory. Zhdanov stated that “a tender to build on land in the region of the Bainevo countryside, right on the national park’s border, had been made. This is land meant for farming that the authorities assigned for settlement, and then happily sold it for cottage development. The trouble is that we cannot try to stop this according to law, even though people who bought these lots have no idea that they will not be able to go for a walk in their neighbor’s obsolete forest; this is a restricted area that is closed to visitors. We will be fining people from 1 to 2 thousand rubles for every outing; another 300 rubles if they are caught gather mushrooms and/or berries, and if they were forced to drive, there will be a 300 ruble fine for every square meter of soil that their wheel s passed over.