“People are newcomers here. We should behave and protect this wonderful place for future generations. Oil is a painful memory for the people living here. We experienced an oil spill in June of 1983 during the test drillings for the D-6 oil field. Most of us living here are trying to protect our clean beaches, sea water, fish and seabirds from the oil.”
Kazimieras Mizgiris, renowned Lithuanian photographer and resident of Curonian Spit.
New on the scene and rapidly expanding into foreign markets, Russian oil giant Lukoil is on the verge of extracting offshore oil near Lithuania’s and Russia’s extraordinary Curonian Spit National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The oil deposit to be exploited, some 22 kilometres from the Lithuanian coast, is thought to contain some 24 million tons of oil.
Environmental NGOs in the Baltic region are concerned about the dangers of environmental pollution and accidental oil spills associated with the project. Curonian Spit is an exceptionally sensitive ecosystem, and the Baltic Sea is relatively clean and rich in biodiversity in this area. Both the Lithuanian and Russian parts of the Curonian Spit have great potential for sustainable tourism and nature protection.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) granted Lukoil a US$150 million working capital loan in May 2000 to bolster the floundering company. In return, the company is expected “to bring Lukoil environmental management practices in line with international good practice”.
Friends of the Earth Lithuania and other members of the CEE Bankwatch Network are skeptical about Lukoil’s ability to extract oil from the Baltic Sea without wreaking environmental catastrophe. They fear that the Lukoil project will open a Pandora’s Box for offshore oil extraction in the Baltic Sea and other companies will flock to the area. They are urging the EBRD to freeze or even withdraw its lending to Lukoil if the company will not drop this extremely controversial deal.
The Baltic is one of the world’s dirtiest seas, and the 80 million people in the nine countries along its shores already feel the impacts of this pollution. Oil extraction, with the inevitable accompanying spills and accidents, could be the final drop that overflows the bucket.
more information: www.bankwatch.org