Lukoil threat to Bialowieza

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Site of planned Lukoil terminal at Lesna

It is rare for BTWT to come out publicly against a proposed railway development, but Russian oil giant Lukoil‘s plans for a massive 62 acre (25 ha) oil terminal on the edge of the Bialowieza Forest fill us with foreboding. The Forest is one of the largest remaining parts of the immense primeval forest which once covered Europe. Before WWII the Forest was in Poland, since the post-war shift of Poland’s borders, it lies in south-western Belarus, and north-east of Poland. UNESCO have declared the Forest a World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve. The EU have given the Polish part of the Forest Natura 2000 designation and, in both Poland and Belarus, portions of the forest are also protected under domestic legislation.

From Lukoil’s point of view the site offers many advantages. The Narewka Council is in favour of the development and have already sold some land to the oil company. The site is already connected by a broad gauge railway to the Belarus railway system. The proposed oil terminal would actually lie outside the Bialowieza National Park. The company intends to prepare an environmental impact assessment and and to install suitable traps and dykes to minimize the effect of any spillage.

On the other hand, ecologists throw up their hands in horror. They point out that Lukoil are hardly known for their care of the environment. Any oil or chemical spillage would eventually leach into the drainage canals that run from the site into National Park. The heavy road tankers that would take fuel from the oil terminal to destinations all over Poland would actually run through the Park. In the event of an accident like the explosion and fire at the oil terminal in Buncefield, the damage to the Forest’s ecosystem would be incalculable.

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