At the end of last year, RT-Invest, a subsidiary of Rostec, Russian state-owned holding conglomerate that specializes in consolidating the corporation’s stakes in the strategically important companies, mainly in the defense and high-tech industries, was to begin construction of a zero waste incineration plant near Kazan, the capital of Russia’s constituent republic of Tatarstan.
However, the opponents of the project launched a movement named “No Waste Incineration Plant in Kazan and Tatarstan,” which now actually blocks the beginning of construction.
The start of construction works was planned for 2019 at a site near the village of Osinovo in Tatarstan's Zelenodolsky district. If you take a closer look at the construction plan, it will become obvious that the plant will be located literally a couple of kilometers away from residential houses. For the first time, the talk about the project emerged in 2013. Then, in 2017, its presentation was held. Modern technologies of Hitachi Zosen Inova AG, the Japanese-Swiss company, were to be installed. In particular, the plant was to become the first facility of that kind in Russia with an almost zero level of solid domestic waste. The plant was to occupy an area of about 50,000 square meters. Its annual processing capacity was expected to stand at 550,000 tonnes of waste. At the same time, the plant would produce 400 million kWh of electricity.
Initial plans indicated that the construction would start in the summer of 2019 but later the beginning of construction was postponed to the end of the year. The total amount of investment would be 28 billion rubles, and 10.98 million rubles was allocated from the budget of Tatarstan for this purpose. After commissioning, the annual maintenance of the plant is expected to go up to 6 billion rubles. The construction period is about 4 years. According to the RT-Invest sources, in case of successful implementation of this project, the company will be offered a contract worth a total amount of about 50 billion rubles for the construction of four similar plants in the Moscow region.
"Everything that can be recycled must be recycled, and the rest must be disposed of,” said Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov, commenting on the project. “In this sense, Copenhagen is very much like Kazan. There is a ski slope from the roof of a waste incineration plant and a rock climbing ground in the centre of the city. That is par for the course there. Actually, we got lucky. The Moscow region and our republic are getting engaged in this project, so we are just fortunate. The project costs 24-28 billion rubles. There are 500 to 1,000 people who are against it. But there are other 1.25 million people -- and even more -- in Kazan itself and around the city. What is their opinion about it? How are we going to live in our metropolis from now on? Look at Moscow, people there don't know what to do with the waste and where to take it out. The landfills are full, there are no other solutions. Something new might come along but the whole world has chosen the same pathway. So let's use its experience. However, what we're going to do now is only for the good.”
After the project was announced, protests against the plant construction started in Tatarstan almost immediately. The “No Waste Incineration Plant in Kazan and Tatarstan” movement was active both in social networks and in real life.
In December 2019, protesters set up a tent camp in the field where construction works were to begin, in particular, construction of the road. The employees of Tatavtodor, the oldest road-building company of Tatarstan, who came to the site to do the construction works showed permission to reconstruct a dangerous old road, but activists claim that this is agricultural land and there has never been a road there. The workers, supported by law enforcement agencies, made several attempts to start the construction but only managed to tear down the trees and remove a small layer of soil. The rest of the work was blocked.
The protesters called the tent camp Shiyes 2.0 on the analogy of a similar camp in the Arkhangelsk region. Later, the protesters renamed the camp Dioksinovo by analogy to the name of Osinovo, a rural locality and the administrative center of Osinovskoye rural settlement of Vinogradovsky district in the Arkhangelsk region near which a plant is to be built. On December 16, the security services dispersed the tent camp. A total of 19 people were detained. Most of them were issued fines (totaling more than 170,000 rubles), and two individuals were arrested. After that, the rally was transformed into one-man pickets. According to VKontakte, a Russian online social media and social networking service, the community named "No Waste Incineration Plant in Kazan and Tatarstan," one-person pickets is not regulated by law in any way, so people can't be detained for holding them.
However, in general, atmosphere is getting tenser: in February, Alexander Davydov, one of the most active opponents of the construction of the waste incineration plant, was beaten up by unknown people, his car had tires blown out and the windows in his apartment smashed. Allegedly, after this incident he was forced to leave the country. In December activists tried to meet with Minnikhanov, but he said: "We haven't made a decision on the construction of the plant yet. What is the point of meeting with me? I have already said that of course, I will meet with you when an international expert study is completed. I will meet you and ask: "What questions do you have??"
Opponents of the project note that RT-Invest received this project for implementation outside of a bidding contest, because the bidding procedures were held with one single participant. Activists attained a court ruling that the investor is obliged to provide them with project documentation of the plant for scrutiny. The ruling came into force as early as September 2, 2019, but has not yet been actually implemented.
Elena Yamshchikova, environmental director of Alternative Generating Company-1, RT-Invest’s subsidiary, claims that the full package of documentation is a business secret which the company defends in trials, and it is prepared to furnish the activists only with the documentation on environmental details of the project. According to ecoactivist Elena Biktasheva, Andrey Shipelov, CEO of RT-Invest, has repeatedly stated that plant’s chimneys will be emitting only pure steam but the environmental impact assessment project indicates that the emissions will amount to about 700 tonnes of harmful substances. Her opponent, Yamshchikova, argues that the waste incineration plant is supposed to solve the problem of garbage dumps exerting a far more serious impact on the environment. The protesters are also seeking the ways to relocate the plant to a site 15-17km north of the M-7 highway. This is much farther away from the current location. However, the initiators of the construction insist that in this case, the rates for garbage disposal will increase several times over.
According to Sergey Mukhachev, a member of the Executive Committee of the Republic’s Council of the All-Russian Society of Nature Preservation, starting this project without full implementation of the system of separate garbage collection and its recycling is not a correct decision. The plant as it stands will have negative impact on the environment, as well as health of not only living generations but future ones, too.
In order to defuse the situation, Mikhail Afanasyev, the administrative head of the area where the plant is to be built, has already stated that he is ready to build residential houses in the township of Osinovo right next to the construction site. Earlier, Kazan Mayor Ilsur Metshin promised him that his son would live near the incineration plant. "Before the construction begins, I'll buy land," he said at the end of the meeting, in response to an environmental activist’s question.