MOSCOW, December 30 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill allowing nature reserves to be turned into areas where limited construction, logging and other commercial activities are possible.
Russia’s parliament gave its final approval to the bill earlier this month.
Currently, Russia has 103 nature reserves – territories with unique ecosystems where most types of commercial activities are banned and logging is allowed only to prevent fires.
The bill will allow the conservation status of such areas to be lowered to that of national parks, where some zones remain under special protection, but others may be used for logging and construction of houses, roads and pipelines.
The Russian natural resources ministry said that about a dozen of Russia’s nature reserves, mostly those located near large cities, had already become popular areas for sports and recreation, and the new legislation would streamline their use.
The initiative, however, has been widely criticized by Greenpeace activists, who said it will destroy Russia’s nature conservation system.