Stories from the Grassroots: The Greengrants Blog
Meet Marina Rikhvanova, Global Greengrants’ Russia coordinator and founder of Baikal Environmental Wave
Jul 23, 2014 | No Comments
Marina Rikhvanova grew up visiting the shores of Lake Baikal in Siberia, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. Reaching a depth of nearly 5,400 feet, the lake holds more water than all of the United States’ Great Lakes combined. And it is home to more than 1,600 species of plants and animals, including the world’s only freshwater seal. The deep blue waters, surrounded by rocky shores and snowy white peaks, left an imprint on Marina’s heart.
Later, when Marina was a student, she studied the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill that was built right on the shores of the lake and had been in production since 1966. Through her research, Marina learned that the mill was dumping up to 200,000 cubic meters of liquid waste per day into pristine Lake Baikal. The pollution was killing the lake’s unique wildlife, and women in the surrounding communities were experiencing a high rate of perinatal mortality and miscarriage. In addition, air pollution created a constant putrid smell, and local people were dying from lung diseases at a rate two times the national average.
Marina wanted to do something. She now had two young children to care for, but she was determined. Marina decided to devote her life to saving the beautiful lake. In 1990, she and her friends founded Baikal Environmental Wave, a nonprofit organization dedicated to her passion.
For two decades, Marina and her colleagues continued to analyze the pulp and paper mill’s effects on Lake Baikal’s water and surrounding ecosystem. They organized educational opportunities in the community of Baikalsk and produced reports on the mill’s illegal dumping. With the help of other activists, they gathered signatures and organized protests, demanding closure of the mill. And they were able to fight off construction of a petroleum pipeline along the lake’s shores, as well as a uranium-enrichment center that would have stored deadly radioactive material. In 2008, Marina won the Goldman Environmental Prize award for these incredible victories.
However, because of their actions, Marina and her colleagues are faced scrutiny by the Russian authorities, who repeatedly searched their office and confiscated items.
After many trials and setbacks, finally in 2013, the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill closed down its operation for good. The plant is no longer dumping chlorides and sulfites into the lake’s clear waters. Marina and her colleagues rejoiced. However, this victory came with more challenges.
The Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill generated 80 percent of Baikalsk’s income. When the plant closed, more than 1,500 people lost their jobs. But Marina and her colleagues see this as an opportunity. They have sketched out a plan to make Baikalsk eco-friendly and have started a school for eco-business, teaching residents alternative ways to make a living; through eco-tourism and other sustainable livelihoods. The local government is now consulting Baikal Wave to help strategize the future of the town and the pulp and paper mill site.
Today, Marina and her colleagues still face persecution by Russian authorities. But between lawsuits, court hearings, and her work on the school for eco-business, Marina finds time to go swimming with her husband each morning, paint, and tend to her garden. And she has not lost heart. She envisions a sustainable future for the town of Baikalsk and her treasured lake. Knowing Marina, we believe her hope and determination will enable her to persevere once again.
Read more about Global Greengrants’ Russia advisory board.
Read more about Marina’s work to save Lake Baikal in an article in The Daily Beast.
Jul 22, 2014 | One Comment
In preparing for this Summit, Allison Davis, Global Greengrants’ Deputy Director of Programs, has learned a great deal about how our grants support women’s groups and interests all over the world. Here are four themes that have risen to the top.Read more
Jul 21, 2014 | No Comments
Use these articles and resources to understand the link between gender equality and climate change, and the importance of supporting grassroots women’s voices and leadership.Read more
Jul 20, 2014 | One Comment
The riches hidden within Timor Island’s lush rainforests are extraordinary and problematic. Timor’s indigenous people consider the soil, water, stone, and trees their own bodies. But these fertile mountains are also rich in oil, gas, gold, and marble. This is the story of one woman leading a fight to save her people’s sacred lands.Read more
Jun 24, 2014 | No Comments
Why should environmental and women’s rights funders join forces to support grassroots change? Artemisa Castro Félix of the Fund for Solidarity in Action (FASOL) explains.Read more
Jun 24, 2014 | No Comments
“The International Network of Women’s Funds sees a number of relevant intersections with climate issues that could potentially lead to very strategic funding initiatives.” Read more from INWF’s Executive Director, Emelienne de Léon.Read more
Jun 13, 2014 | No Comments
Everyone in Brazil wanted the World Cup—we thought it would leave benefits. But FIFA is like a big, multinational company that comes and sucks away everything. The effect has been devastating, but some good has come of it all, also…Read more
May 29, 2014 | No Comments
Suren Gazaryan personifies Russia’s crackdown on environmental activists. The internationally recognized zoologist and Global Greengrants grantee was forced to flee to Estonia in 2012 after exposing the authorities’ illegal exploitation of a protected forest. Keep reading>>Read more
May 29, 2014 | No Comments
On May 22, 2014, International Biodiversity Day, the government of Ecuador decided to celebrate by issuing permits to drill for oil in what is probably the most biodiverse place on Earth, Yasuní National Park. Keep reading>>Read more
May 1, 2014 | No Comments
$150,000 for local leaders! Thank you for sharing our vision of a world in which all people live with dignity and in harmony with the environment. Here’s what you did…Read more