The expedition, part of a programme to clean up the Arctic, will clear litter from the islands. The participants plan to set up workshops to clean and compress fuel barrels and process scrap metal and other waste. The work will continue until the end of October. The participants plan to clean up around 8,000 tons of waste, including 70,000 barrels and around 3,000 tons of fuel and lubricants.
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Speech at a meeting with participants in an environmental expedition to Franz Josef Land archipelago
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Friends,
Today, we are seeing off this scientific and environmental expedition to Franz Josef Land.
This is a symbolic event for Russia. First, it confirms our growing presence in the Arctic. We will increase our efforts and work in many areas here, developing new deposits and building new infrastructure, above all ports, roads, bridges and so on. Of course, we will also bolster our military presence here too. In all of this work we will strive for a balance between development and preservation of the natural environment.
The Arctic, with which many of you are familiar already, is a very vulnerable part of the world and at the same time an ecosystem of vital importance for the whole planet. We therefore need to take particular care of this region. Of course we will act carefully here, and in doing so we will need to put resources into environmental safety.
Unfortunately, we also need to deal with the burden of damage that built up here over previous decades, and so, before starting active work to carry out our new plans, we first need to clean up the legacy past generations have left behind.
Past generations have left us many good things for which we are grateful. I will not list them all now. Everything we have has come down to us from past generations, including problems such as pollution in the Arctic.
Your expedition is in effect the start of a big new project to give the Arctic a thorough clean-up. On Franz Josef Land alone, as many of you probably know, there are more than 500,000 barrels containing various fuels and lubricants, and many of them are already leaking and rusting. I have seen this with my own eyes. There are 15,000 tons of scrap metal, 15,000 tons in this one place alone! This is a colossal job, and it is work that we will have to do not only on Franz Josef Land, but throughout the entire Arctic from Murmansk to Chukotka. This is a huge but very useful and needed undertaking for our country and indeed for the world in general.
I know that 135 people are taking part in this expedition, including scientists, technical specialists, and skilled workers. I sincerely wish you success. As I said, this is a very timely, needed, and important work.
Thank you, and I wish you all the best.