Moscow, Russia, 17 November 2010 -- /RIA Novosti/ -- Russian Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev has called for the Baikal pulp and paper mill, on the shores of the world's largest freshwater lake, to be closed.
"We believe the Baikal pulp and paper mill must be closed," Trutnev told deputies of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, during a governmental hour.
The Baikal pulp and paper mill is the only industrial enterprise that dumps waste water directly into Lake Baikal, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The mill, which employs about 2000 people, was shut down in October 2008 for more than a year over environmental protests. However, it reopened in July 2010 upon a decree signed by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in January.
The decree excluded pulp, paper and cardboard production from the banned operations in the lake area. Putin explained the move saying that the plant did not harm the ecology of Lake Baikal, as opposed to what scientists have said.
Trutnev said the plant authorities had three years to solve social and economic issues before it would be finally closed. However, the employment problem for plant workers still exists.
"It is a shame that 1800 people cannot be employed for years," the minister said.
Earlier this month, Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov said the authorities would not stop production at the plant until 2015, when residents get new jobs.