Second wind for Europe’s lungs
[b]Belarusian Polesie is a special place. The natural landscape of the region is unique, including the largest forest-marsh area in Europe and the Pripyat floodplain ecosystem. The state scheme for its development until 2015 has been accepted in Belarus, creating a new page in its biography[/b]In 2008, President Alexander Lukashenko entrusted the Government with the development of an integrated programme to use the natural resources of Polesie. There was every indication that it was necessary: natural wealth, a variety of deposits and the life style of local people observing ancient traditions. A programme was elaborated to revive the Polesie area of the Brest and Gomel regions, aiming to develop the social sphere, restoring flooded land, raising efficiency and preventing land degradation.
In 2008, President Alexander Lukashenko entrusted the Government with the development of an integrated programme to use the natural resources of Polesie. There was every indication that it was necessary: natural wealth, a variety of deposits and the life style of local people observing ancient traditions. A programme was elaborated to revive the Polesie area of the Brest and Gomel regions, aiming to develop the social sphere, restoring flooded land, raising efficiency and preventing land degradation. Above all, it provides for the development of the agriculture and fishing industry, bringing non-consumptive use of water resources and their protection from desiccation and pollution. Among its priorities is the protection of forest resources, flora and fauna, while minimising the effects of emergencies. Various projects are connected with the development of tourism in this region, with better accommodation being provided, alongside reconstruction of schools, hospitals and town halls.
About Br4bn is earmarked in total from state and local budgets, innovation funds and internal funds of organisations, alongside bank credits, investors’ facilities and debenture issues. Various tax remissions will aim to attract investors. Meanwhile, the Pripyatskoe Polesie Project should create over 25,000 jobs, while raising industrial production by up to 80 percent. “It’s a huge blessing for our region,” smiles Alexander Yakobson, the Chairman of the Gomel Regional Executive Committee. “This programme envisages ways for the district to improve its economic and social sphere, starting with the use of marshes, improving reclamation and eco-tourism development.”
It includes dozens of projects in various directions, worth dozens of billions of injections, covering all spheres of life to ensure the Polesie region meets its potential. The regional administration considers that a global project to lay railway lines could crown its work, although it will be very expensive. It would connect a large granite pit in Glushkovichi and promote the development of chalk, clay and gypsum mining.
The programme particularly stresses the development of animal breeding (for meat purposes) using marsh grass as fodder. The marshes were relatively underused until recently, since access has been difficult; land near water tends to be overgrown with dense shrubs, making it impassable to machinery and vehicles. Additionally, manual harvesting is not possible everywhere. Pleasingly, a solution has been found, for use via the new programme. “We’ll build five open-air stationary sites for 1,500 head of cattle, on Pripyat’s marshes,” explains the Chairman of the Committee for Agriculture and Food and of the Regional Executive Committee, Valentin Babok. “Our cattle can pasture there all year round.” The experiment is already being implemented, with Turovshchina JSC (Zhitkovichi district) sending its first herd of famous ‘limousine’ cattle for ‘testing’. The cows have successfully survived winter outside, eating pasture, and the marshlands now resemble a mown field!
Naturally, processing is as vital as production, so a plant producing deluxe processed cheese is to be built in the Zhitkovichi district. A dairy is to be constructed in Lyaskovichi agro-town (Petrikov district) while an orchard covering 200 hectares is to appear near Mozyr, with facilities for processing and storage. “The projects have been developed to ensure modest facilities,” notes Mr. Babok. “Experience has shown that, under present conditions, small plants survive better, while successfully fulfilling their social and economic functions: creating jobs and making payments into the budget.”
The Narovlya district is the smallest in the Grodno region, home to about 12,000 people and several manufacturing enterprises. With this in mind, major hopes are pinned on the programme. The Deputy Chairman of the District Executive Committee, Gennady Lopatenko, tells us, “The district is situated on the Pripyat, which is a good starting position for the development of ecotourism. However, we can’t succeed alone. The state programme will help create tourist infrastructure, uniting unique architectural sites and the rich nature of the area. In other words, it will give us everything we need to ensure successful tourist business, from which the district can make money.”
By Violetta Dralyuk