Elena Zlenko: the “Clean Arctic” project is for people of strong character
Elena Zlenko
Deputy Chairman of the Council of Federation Committee for Agrarian and Food Policy and Environmental Management

Elena Zlenko: the “Clean Arctic” project is for people of strong character

This year, the third season of the “Clean Arctic” project starts. Elena Zlenko, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Federation Committee for Agrarian and Food Policy and Environmental Management, told EcoTourism Expert about the results of its previous two seasons.

- In your opinion, is the "Clean Arctic” project first of all a volunteer or a state project?

The project is unique not only because it is a volunteer one, it is a public project and unites the state authorities of the Russian Federation’s subjects, municipalities, large corporations, volunteers, as well as conscious and concerned citizens living in the Russia’s Arctic zone around the idea of the Russian Arctic as an ecologically clean region. In this sense, it is an integral and mobilizing project.

By the way, not only Russian but also foreign students studying at our universities are taking part in this project. Both young and older people are among the volunteers, they go through a competitive selection to become volunteers. This is a project for people of strong character, regardless of their age.

And, of course, the “Clean Arctic” project demonstrates that Russia, chairing the Arctic Council, not only declares but also solves the problems of the “Clean Arctic” projects in practice, including through the active participation of many volunteers.

- What are the main results of the two past seasons of the project?

- Brief summary of the results of the “Clean Arctic” project launched in July 2021 indicates that over the past two years, serious steps have been taken that made it possible to attract more than 5,000 volunteers in 70 different locations. It was necessary to go to the remote and hard-to-reach places in our Arctic regions, organize their accommodation and life there and clean these areas from wood waste and piles of scrap metal, collect and pack a lot of garbage and take it away from the Arctic area, which is most important.

The volunteers are very active. They collected about 5 thousand tonnes of garbage. So far, not everything and not everywhere has been removed yet as this job takes long time. In previous years, the garbage and wastes used to be removed from the Arctic area using winter roads and taking advantage of various opportunities, including during the deliveries of goods to the Northern Territories when fuel was delivered to the Arctic areas and the collected garbage was taken away from the Arctic areas on the way back.

- What needs to be done to achieve this goal? What is the role of the parliamentarians?

You are right, this problem is, among other things, a legislative one, because this garbage belongs to “nobody” as it was left in the Arctic area long ago by various ministries, departments, enterprises and companies. To have legal grounds to remove this garbage and waste from the Arctic regions, it is necessary to establish in court that they are abandoned property. Legislators must solve this legal problem so that this garbage could be collected by the volunteers, organizations and enterprises and could be taken away from the Arctic areas (during the delivery of goods to the Northern Territories as well as other transport and logistics routes), disposed it or melted it down. This is a way to clean up the Arctic regions.

We are actively working on this issue, the approvals of the federal executive authorities have already been received, and appropriate initiatives are being prepared. To bring this project to a logical solution is our task as legislators. And our task as ordinary people is to take part together with the volunteers, to act as helping coaches, to join them in those locations that are chosen in each Arctic region, to benefit their regions.

- How will the new season of the project go?

During these two years, a high-quality organizational structure has been formed. Headquarters have been set up in each Arctic region. And I want to note that in many subjects of the Russian Federation, the headquarters are headed by the leaders of the regions, which gives additional dynamics to the work on the project. These headquarters, together with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology and the “Clean Arctic” Centre for Environmental Initiatives, form the sites where volunteers will come in the new season.

In 2023, each of the 9 Arctic regions has plans for the number of volunteers involved, the areas where the garbage should be removed, and the locations where work will be organized. In Karelia, these are Belomorsk and the Voitsky Padun waterfall; in Yakutia - Zhigansk, Tiksi, Bagatai, Ust-Kuyga, Ese-Khaya; in the Krasnoyarsk Territory - Norilsk, the Shchuchya River, Dudinka; in the Komi Republic - Inta, Ust-Tsilma, Usinsk; and in my native Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District - Marresalya, Kamenny Cape, the village of Polyarny and other places, there is a detailed list of places for each region. (See Map of the “Clean Arctic” project - 2023)

The volunteers should be transported by helicopters to the remote and hard-to-reach places (and there are many of them), which is a complex organizational and logistical task for the authorities. And for the volunteers, it is a certain adventure and drive. And, of course, they are eager to contribute to a great and important project.

Photo courtesy of ANO “Clean Arctic”