INK discussed Lena River health monitoring findings
More than 1,000 bio-assays were screened, including phyto- and zooplankton, zoobenthos and fish fauna, riverside aquatic and ground vegetation. The discussion centered on the findings of the complex ecological and anthropological expedition in the upper course of the river undertaken by ISU specialists with the support of the Russian Geographical Society in summer 2022. The expedition team also included researchers from Khabarovsk Pacific University. The itinerary totaled around 750 km along Lena River from Ust-Kut town to Vitim village (Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)).
On the way, scientists examined ten abandoned villages, where vigorous anthropogenic activities have resumed that are not accounted for in the environmental statistic records.
“Abandoned villages are being converted into summer homes and gardening plots, sometimes even cattle breeding undertakings. People fence off riverside taiga plots and break the ground. In addition, attempts are made to stock the Lena tributaries with fish. This affects the river health in the areas where, according to the official records, anthropogenic impact is supposed to be at a minimum. The ecosystem is also significantly damaged by lumber logging and transloading, production of inert materials,” said the expedition leader Arkadiy Matveev.
The tests of samples taken in different areas of the Lena showed that the river water can be deemed virtually clean near Zhigalovo village but its quality deteriorates further downstream: before Ust-Kut, the water is slightly polluted, downstream of the town – polluted, while 60% samples taken in the river span from Kirensk town down to Vitim village are estimated to be polluted and 40% - highly polluted.
Expedition members did not identify negative impacts of large industrial operations on the river. The scientists noted INK’s high social responsibility in relation to the areas where it operates, in particular as far as biodiversity and ecosystem preservation is concerned.
“We were able to see the company’s contribution with our own eyes. In July, we held a panel discussion in Ust-Kut to address rehabilitation of Lena River ecosystem with participation of INK and could confirm that the company is committed to ensuring environmental safety on its sites. Another noteworthy point is the involvement of young residents of Ust-Kut in environmental efforts – competitions, educational events, etc.,” said Vera Shlyonova, head of the Irkutsk branch of the All-Russian Society of Nature Conservation.
INK has been taking action on stocking Lena River and Bratsk Reservoir with fish as part of construction of the Irkutsk Polymer Plant in Ust-Kut and other operation sites. The company has released 505 thousand grayling fry since 2021. After the Plant starts operation, around 400 thousand young fish will be released on a yearly basis.
Technologies deployed in construction of the Plant meet stringent international and national environmental requirements. After the Plant is brought online, water, soil and air quality will be monitored on an ongoing basis. Some other features of the Plant are a closed water circulation system and water-gathering tanks of a total capacity of 35 thousand m3, which will keep withdrawal of river water to a minimum.
The meeting of researchers, environmentalists and INK representatives resulted in proposals to develop a complex regional program for Lena River health improvement, establish an expert board including governmental bodies, subsoil users and lumber companies.
Irkutsk Oil Company (INK) is one of major private producers of raw hydrocarbons in Russia. The company incorporated in 2000 engages in geological study, exploration and development of 53 subsoil blocks in the Irkutsk Region, Krasnoyarsk Region and Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). INK’s largest investment project is the gas chemistry cluster developed in Ust-Kut town. It consists of gas production, treatment, transportation and processing facilities, a helium plant, and the Irkutsk Polymer Plant. The company now counts around 14 thousand employees.
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