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Financial Times: EBRD should focus on energy projects that bring public benefits

By Petr Hlobil

Published: January 5 2007 02:00 | Last updated: January 5 2007 02:00

From Mr Petr Hlobil.

Sir, Your article “Gazprom role endangers $300m Sakhalin 2 loan” (January 2) assumes that withdrawal from the Sakhalin 2 project by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development would be “a blow to environmentalists in Russia who relied on the bank to apply pressure to limit damage to the surrounding environment”.

However, it is a matter of record that the majority of Russian as well as international environmental groups monitoring the Sakhalin 2 project have for several years called on the EBRD to withdraw from the project because it had failed to ensure that Shell, Mitsui and Mitsubishi were designing, constructing and operating it with due respect for international standards as well as Russian laws.

Sakhalinian and Russian organisations have submitted to the EBRD a vast array of information taken from the field, documenting damage caused by the project to a high number of salmon-spawning rivers vital for Sakhalin’s fisheries, threats to the western Pacific grey whale that is already now close to extinction as well as a catalogue of social burdens families across the island are having to bear. In spite of all this, prior to Gazprom’s recent takeover of Sakhalin 2, the EBRD was widely expected to finance the project even while it had to admit that the project was in violation of its own environmental policy.

The EBRD has devoted significant taxpayer resources to Sakhalin 2 but has failed to bring a western multinational adequately to book when it comes to protecting local communities and their environment. The EBRD should move completely out of this sector and instead use its public funding for energy projects that bring genuine public benefits at no expense to the environment.

Petr Hlobil,

Campaigns’ Co-ordinator,

CEE Bankwatch Network,

Prague 3, 130 00,

Czech Republic

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