MOSCOW, February 5 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered to amend recent environmental legislation that critics said could allow for real estate development in Russia’s protected territories.
A law passed in December allows for the downgrading of any of the 102 Russian wildlife reserves to natural parks, where construction is permitted under certain conditions.
The law, which passed quickly through parliament, caused outcry from eco-activists, who said it could be exploited to build commercial real estate in wildlife reserves.
But a presidential order, a copy of which was obtained by RIA Novosti, required the government to draft a closed list of wildlife reserves that may be downgraded.
The move is in line with proposals by environmental activists, including the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF), who say that about six or seven wildlife reserves in Russia need downgrading.
No other wildlife reserves may be downgraded, and none should be converted into national parks before July, when the bill is to be presented, according to the order, which is dated last Friday and was not published on the Kremlin’s website.
A WWF spokeswoman told RIA Novosti on Wednesday that the group expected the government to draft the list of wildlife sanctuaries proposed for downgrading in cooperation with environmentalists.
A number of prominent Russian officials, including Putin and Alexander Tkachyov, governor of the Krasnodar Region which is hosting the Sochi Olympics, have been accused of building houses on protected territory.
The allegations were never proven in court, and some of the accusers have faced legal action.