Coke bottlers to replace paper-mill at Lake Baikal?

Russia's environmental watchdog has upped the size of its lawsuit against the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill to nearly $US 130 million for the 45-day-long pollution of Lake Baikal. The action to stop the dumping of waste into Lake Baikal comes amid suggesti

With legal action and potential fines mounting, the future of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill is becoming increasingly precarious.

Constructed in 1966, it has been the subject of environmental protest since it was on the drawing board. Situated on the shore of Lake Baikal, it takes in 200,000 tonnes of pulp and produces 12,000 tonnes of paper each year. But it uses a chlorine bleaching process which discharges untreated waste into one of the most beautiful locations on the planet.

It has taken 40 years for the government to become concerned, but a shutdown would have severe implications for local employment .

Now Rosprirodnadzor, the natural resources agency, iIs suggesting that it be converted it into a bottling plant and Coca-Cola was the first to receive the proposal.

However, Oleg Mitvol, Deputy Head of Rosprirodnadzor said the nature of production is not important.

“It doesn't really matter whether it is Coca-cola, Pepsi or Schweppes, as long as production doesn't pollute Lake Baikal. If Coca-Cola does what its management's promised us, i.e. to send its specialists and provide us with a technical decision, or even if it declines the proposal, other companies could use these ideas and calculations,” Mitvol said.

No other companies have been presented with the idea and analysts are skeptical, saying regional demand isn’t strong enough to warrant the large scale investment needed to convert the mill into a bottling plant.