Medvedev Promises State Audit after Reports of Bottling Plant on Lake Baikal

A planned water bottling plant on the shores of Russia’s Lake Baikal will be audited by authorities, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev vowed Tuesday, according to NTV.

Local residents in the Siberian village of Kultuk were angered by reports of the construction of the bottling plant, with more than 880,000 people signing an online petition, urging authorities to scrap the construction plans. According to the Associated Press, one of the reasons for the resentment is the fact that most of the water is going to be exported to neighboring China and South Korea.

Baikal is the world’s deepest freshwater lake and is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. It has a special microclimate that accommodates the migration of many different types of birds.

Medvedev told Russian news agencies that he had received multiple complaints and that he would order officials to check if the plant on the shores of Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia complies with environmental standards. He added, however, that he was not ready to say yet “if the plant is bad or good.”

Local officials argue that the project is not damaging to the environment and will provide much-needed jobs.

The campaign to stop the construction has also been backed by an unlikely activist — the flamboyant Russian celebrity stylist Sergei Zverev who staged a picket outside the Kremlin last week, wearing a gold crown and holding a poster saying “I’m against the construction of a plant on Baikal.”

Zverev, who is a Baikal native, said Monday that he’s been summoned to the police to face potential charges of staging an unsanctioned protest over his picket.

There are no major factories or industrial production near Baikal, which holds around 20 percent of the world’s freshwater reserves. In an environmental scandal, a major paper mill there was shut down in 2013 following intense pressure from activists.