The disputed highway being built through the Khimki forest to connect Moscow to St. Petersburg has managed to spark even more controversy.
Environmentalists claim that apart from the forest, the route will destroy the Zavidovo national park, an 80,000-square-meter reservation located between the Moscow and Tver regions.
The park has a unique landscape, from thick forests and fields to bogs and lawns. The reservation is densely populated by a wide range of birds and animals.
“This is not ‘just a forest,’ and it’s not even ‘the long-suffering Khimki forest,’” the environmentalists wrote in a letter to the president. “This is the Khimki forest squared. Destroying it to build a highway is absurd.”
The protestors say that the new highway project’s danger to the park became apparent when the president made the final decision on the fate of the Khimki forest.
Public hearings on the project, the environmentalists claim, were sabotaged. The constructors said they did not know the grounds in questions belonged to the park, as they were not registered.
“The park’s lands are currently being registered,” said the head of the Moscow region’s nature protection committee, Yury Samsonov. “But every map will show you the park’s borders. There is even the president’s decree defining the park’s borders.”
The State Roads agency denies that the road will go though the park.
“According to the information we have, the road will go along the borders of the park,” the agency’s spokesperson was quoted as saying by the GZT.ru online newspaper. “Everything is perfectly legal.”
The controversial 12-lane toll highway to connect Moscow to St. Petersburg was designed back in 2004. Environmentalists have actively opposed the idea, as the project implied mass deforestation.
Following a violent campaign against the new road, the government ordered a review of the project. However, no viable alternative was found, and the president decided that the road should go through the forest.
The authorities hope the new road will ease the drastic congestion on Moscow’s Leningrad highway.
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