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Russian Oil Spill Causes River to turn Crimson Red

Updated: Jul 25

By Yusra Adil

Russia has declared an environmental state of emergency on the federal level after the diesel oil spill in Norilsk, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia. This ongoing disaster in Russia’s north has already polluted Russia’s largest freshwater lake and is said to spread within the Arctic Circle and contaminate the Arctic ocean, destroying millions of animal and plant species. According to Russian News, the oil spill was reported late to the media, thus, immediate measures were not effectively taken by the Russian government. In fact, Russian President Vladimir Putin found out about the oil spill through social media, 2 days after the oil spill. The oil spill started to leak on May 29, 2020. The oil spill is caused by the collapse of a fuel reservoir owned by Nornickel, Russia’s largest nickel and palladium mining and smelting company, at a power plant operated by Norilsk-Taimyr Energy Co. Melting permafrost caused the collapse of the oil fuel tank holding 21,000 tonnes of diesel oil to spill in Russia's Arctic Circle approximately spreading 135 square miles. When the permafrost on which the tank platform was built on began to soften, due to global warming and warm temperature in Russia, the supporting posts of the oil tank began to sink in the storage basement. Due to damage to the tank, fuel spilled onto the road and into nearby water bodies. According to the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Natural Resources, 6 000 tons spilled onto the ground and 15 000 tons into the water. The oil spill contaminated Ambarnaya and Daldykan rivers and almost all their tributaries. Furthermore, the oil spill expanded 12km (7.5 miles) from the original spill location, contaminating long stretches of the Ambarnaya, as a result, the river turned crimson red. Moreover, the oil spill is estimated to take five to ten years in terms of clean up, as well as approximately 1.5 billion dollars. Moreover, 10 days after the collapse of the oil tank, the oil spread into Lake Pyasino. On June 9, 2020, several reporting agencies and environmental organizations reported that the spill had reached into Lake Pyasino which then flow into the Pyasino River and eventually into the Arctic Ocean. This indicates that proper precautions and cleanup techniques were not used in the first ten days after the spill to prevent it from entering the Arctic waters, where the wildlife suffer the immense consequences of this spill.

The delay in informing government officials and the company’s ageing reservoirs, both angered Russian President Vladimir Putin, which he discussed with Vladimir Potanin, the billionaire president of Nornickel in a televised video call. Putin suggests that “If you [Vladimir Potanin] had changed them [reservoirs] on time, there would have been no environmental damage and no need to foot such costs.” To which Nornickel replied by assuring to cover all cleanup costs to restore the local environment. However, Nornickel has been held responsible for previous oil spill disasters such as the oil spill in 2016 due to heavy rain which caused overflow at a dam which led to the Daldykan river turning bright red. Several organizations claim that Nornickel uses environmental conditions as an excuse for unsafe working facilities as the company claimed that the increase in global temperatures and effects of climate change caused the permafrost to melt which then resulted in the oil reservoir collapsing. Similarly, Nornickel also claimed that the reason for the oil contamination in the Daldykan river was due to heavy rain and flooding.

Alexei Knizhnikov, an expert from World Wildlife Fund, claims that the accident is the second-largest oil spill in modern Russian history in terms of oil volume apart for the 1994 Usinsk spill in which an estimated 100,000 tons of oil had burst from an old pipeline. Greenpeace has already called the spill the first accident of such a large scale in the Arctic while comparing it to the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska.

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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