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Sunday 25.02.2018 | Name days: Alma, Annemarija

Protesters to save Riga from explosion even if it means referendum

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Picketers from Riga, Ventspils and Daugavpils gathered in front of the Saeima building on September 27 to protest against Riga City Council’s decision to allow construction of Riga Fertilizer Terminal in Riga Port. The project provides handling and storage of highly explosive substances. Around 30 protesters that took part in the picket are set to show the newly-elected law makers that safety of Latvia matters not only to Riga residents, but also people from rural areas. However, in case of emergency, nothing but ruins would be left over from the capital city.

Protesters had prepared posters saying “For Life Without Uralhim Terminal of Chemicals”, while passer-bys were informed about the threat the City Council’s decision poses to the society and the country in general. 250 signatures collected in Daugavpils and 150 in Riga were handed over to the Saeima representatives, so that they can see that people are against the terminal and the decision was adopted without public discussions. Political party Unity’s members Alexei Loskutov and Andrey Judin came out to listen to what protesters were saying. They stressed that the Saeima simply cannot solve matters under the competence of Riga City Council.

Loskutov also pointed out that handling such cargoes is most probably dangerous, however, he added that he was no specialist to say how grounded the concern was. “I support any initiative of the society. It’s only positive that people care for what is going on in the country and how various decisions can play a role in their lives. I will definitely inform my colleagues at the Saeima about this. I am no specialist in safety matters, however, you have made me think and turn special attention to this issue. I will see whether it is in accordance with the safety measures stipulated in the legislation. The matter must not be neglected. In case of necessity, law enforcement authorities and specialists should be contacted to find out their assessment and whether it corresponds to the opinion of Riga City Council,” Loskutov said.

Both Loskutov and Judin heard out the picket organizers statement “The Capital of Latvia – Not a Testing Ground of Ammonium Bomb” addressed to Latvian political and social authorities as well as all sensible people in Latvia. The statement demands revocation of the illegally adopted decision on Riga Fertilizer Terminal construction in Riga Port. It also wants that Latvian citizens as well as Riga residents are provided with sufficient information on what deadly threat operations of such a terminal pose to the capital city. Protesters also want discussions that would take into account the public opinion. They are set to protect Riga even if it comes to a national referendum.

People do not trust in politicians’ empty pledges. They are set to fight by organizing protests in front of Riga City Council in mid or end-October. Not only will they go on with collecting signatures in different cities of Latvia, but also make effort that even a national referendum is set up if necessary.  People need to have a say in whether to build the terminal or not.

Founder of the initiative group from Daugavpils Yuri Zaicev told the news agency BNN that it is quite logical to ask why Daugavpils residents were taking part in the protest although the terminal is to be built in Riga. “Cargoes will be handled at Daugavpils rail station. If I am not mistaken, the new regulations stipulate that railroad engineers must switch every 200-250 kilometers, so the stop will be either in Daugavpils or Rezekne. I live 150 meters away from railway. If Daugavpils gas storage explodes, the contents of wagons will detonate as well and nothing will be left over from my house. It is something I simply do not want to experience,” Zaicev said.

According to him, it would have been more logical, indeed, to protest in front of Riga City Council, however, they were first willing to catch the eye of the newly-elected Saeima members. “No doubt, a picket will soon be organized also in front of the Council, because exactly it took this decision. We must act not relying blindly on the good will of the Council. People must be consulted in such cases involving dangerous decisions. It would be good to have a real discussion, not just a formal one with 28 participants. Only a few of them were Kundzinsala residents, because the terminal is to be built on the island they live. The rest of the participants came practically from nowhere – just like some dead souls. We want truthful analysis of all risks. If it turns out that people are still against Uralhim terminal after such analysis and discussions, a national referendum will have to be set up,” Zaicev says.

“Today it seems that a country that has been fighting for its green forests, meadows and blue sky also must have a say in the terminal construction,” he adds.

Zaicev stressed that at that moment Daugavpils had collected 250 signatures. Despite the distance between the two cities, Daugavpils residents do care for the matter. However, the goodwill of law makers elected by people is necessary to set up a referendum, because these signatures have no notarial power.

Leader of Riga initiative group Sergey Kornienko told the news portal BNN that Riga is expected to handle ammonium nitrate, which is a highly explosive substance that has already caused massive destruction in numerous countries. “It is planned that yearly million of tons will be handled, while 90 000 tons will be stored in Riga Port. 4 000 tons of the deadly substance would travel via Latvia every day. It is a huge amount. Right next to the terminal, there are another companies operating with other highly explosive substances. Despite there has already been a public discussion on the matter, we want to bring it to a new level, so that everyone is aware of it. We opted for the Saeima to turn attention of its members to the fact that the decision has been adopted without their participation. We are not against the terminal itself. It would, of course, boost economic development and give new jobs. What we disapprove of is that such highly dangerous cargoes are to be handled there,” Kornienko says.

Marina Bule, protester from Ventspils, told BNN that the issue concerns not only Riga, but the whole Latvia, because in case anything happens to the capital city, it will also hit Kurzeme region. Bule pointed out that she decided to join other protesters from Ventspils after having read online news about the terminal construction and its possible consequences. According to the protester, also her acquaintances and friends are worried about the matter. However, Bule hopes that politicians and decision-makers will bear in mind the opinion they voiced in the protest.

Protesters from Riga told BNN that they were feeling slightly uncomfortable that people from Daugavpils, Rezekne and Ventspils seemed to be caring more than Riga residents themselves.

All participants of the picket are set to join effort, fight and not give up.

As reported, BNN’s investigative journalism research “Inhabitants of the capital of Latvia becoming hostages of money bags” has found response. The story introduced to Riga City Council’s decision to allow building a mineral fertilizers terminal. It is planned to transport 1 050 000 tons of ammonium nitrate yearly via Riga city center and store 90 000 tons of it – an unprecedented amount for European ports.

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  1. Erina says:

    Good for them! People should join their hands in preventing this deadly terminal from making Riga explode.

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