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27 Dec, 2008 06:56

Bones of contention

A village in central Russia is having trouble with its neighbours – even though they're buried underground. Villagers say graves are being dug to close to their homes and that it’s causing a health hazard.

Authorities say their hands are tied because the village in the Samara region does not officialy exist.

A group of disgruntled villagers met with an official who they believe is at the source of their problems. The residents were quick to express their anger.

The dispute is over a rapidly expanding cemetery in the village of Sorokiny Khutora.

“They bury people anywhere they want, even in the gully and in the sanitary protection zone. According to requirements the cemetery has to be at least 300 metres away from the village, but it is already only 200 metres away,” said resident Ekaterina Serevina.

Local environmental activist, Anton Lebedev of “Green Patrol”, is also joining the fight.

“There have been many violations – ecological, sanitary, of land legislation and the forestries code,” said Lebedev.

There are also concerns for the water supply.

The village's main water supply runs a short distance from the cemetery and public health officials say that the graves’ close proximity to the water-well means that the water may no longer be safe to drink.

Unfortunately, the authorities are claiming that the original construction of the village was never authorized, meaning that villagers have no actual rights to protest against violations.

“The village as a geographical area or a dwelling place is not shown on any map of Samara, and there are no decrees about the village’s creation,” said Aleksandr Shatukhin, Cemetery Director and Samara Duma Deputy.

Villagers are using official registration documents, some of which date back to the 1940s, to help build their case. They are planning to take the matter up in the courts and are pushing for a fence to be built while the dispute is heard out.