Fri February 7, 2014

Boulder Nonprofit Sounds Alarm On Sochi’s Environmental Woes

As the world focuses its attention on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Boulder-based Global Greengrants is raising environmental and civil liberties concerns about the event.

Grace Hood speakes to Global Greengrants Communications Director Kris Abrams for All Things Considered

Global Greengrants said it gave $4,000 to the Russian nonprofit Environmental Watch on North Caucasus to research and report the ecological impacts of construction near Sochi in 2011. Greengrants Communications Director Kris Abrams says since 2011, Russian authorities have frozen bank accounts and detained members of Environmental Watch.

Abrams says much of the infrastructure for the Games has been built on what once was a protected national park.

A New York Times report elaborated on the arrests and the environmental issues. It explained:

Ski jumps and courses were built on about 6,000 acres of land taken from Sochi National Park. Road and rail construction along the Mzymta River endangered a rare Black Sea salmon species. And ice rinks, roads and hotels were constructed on reclaimed marshland that had been a habitat for migrating birds.

To address environmental concerns, a few Olympic corporate sponsors have pledged to offset the carbon footprint of the games with a variety of projects that include insulation for Russian homes.

The following are excerpts from an interview with Global Greengrants Communications Director Kris Abrams:

On the massive construction effort just completed in Sochi:

“Sochi is home to Sochi National Park. It protects thousands of acres of forest land and montane meadows. Imagine if the U.S. were proposing to hold the Olympics in Rocky Mountain National Park. That would be similar. There’s no ski runs there, there’s no Olympic Village. This was even more extreme because there weren’t even roads leading into the park.”

On the impact of Sochi construction to the nearby Mzymta River:

“People who live in villages and small cities below the Mzymta River basin, whenever there’s a hard rain now, they’re flooded. So it’s just been an ecological disaster the decision to hold the Olympics there. And [Environmental Watch on North Caucasus] believes that it’s the most environmentally destructive Olympic Games in world history.”

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