Timber processing workshop is not able to process the quantity of delivered wood, September 2001 — January 2003

Infringements: Unsatisfactory organization of technology to process timber felled within and removed from Belovezhskaya Pushcha timber; economic losses due to delay of processing timber; economic losses due to delayed realization of saw-timbers and absence of appropriate conditions for their storage.

Events, facts, documents and evidences: Procurement and processing of timber was conducted nearly all over the history. of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. After the Byelorussian Reserve «Belovezhskaya Pushcha» was reorganized into the State Protected Game Ground, a timber processing workshop was built in the village of Kamenyuki, the residential center of Belovezhskaya Pushcha. The workshop was set up to annually process 30,000 to 50,000 cubic meters of timber from selective sanitary cuttings and clearing in the forest in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. Wood cutting at the specified scale did not bring controversial damage to the Pushcha. According to scientific estimation the natural mortality of trees in Belovezhskaya Pushcha amounts to a volume of approximately 240,000 cubic meters of wood.

In 1994 Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park was transferred to the jurisdiction of the Property Management Department of the President of the Republic of Belarus and a new line for the Pushcha's management was proclaimed. It targeted at commercialization of the Park's activities and the development of intensive businesses in order to obtain profit. At that time the number of sawmills in and around Belovezhskaya Pushcha was so large that these sawmills faced the problem of availability of timber since necessary sanitary cuttings within the Pushcha were limited. After a limited increase of infections by Bark beetle occurred in Spruce forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha from 1994 to 1996 former leaders of the Park came to a common thought that huge stocks of timber was available in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, which should be exploited in order to obtain profits. These former leaders cannot be regarded as experts in any of the fields of science of wildlife, ecology or nature conservation. Primary questions in the field of conservation of wild nature and the preservation of Belovezhskaya Pushcha were no longer taken into account as was done before.

It was decided to develop the local timber processing industry within Belovezhskaya Pushcha through the construction of new workshops for processing timber and the modernization and expansion of existing sawmills that were already in exploitation. The program culminated in the construction of a large wood-processing plant in 1998, situated in the village of Kamenyuki, the residential and scientific center of the National Park. A powerful saw bench was imported from Germany and a large premise was built for the installation of the bench. Purchasing the bench and building the premise cost a huge sum — an equivalent to over $ 1,500,000 was paid in loans.

Only later it became clear that a second hand saw bench had been installed. The big wood processing plant was intended to process crude timber extracted from the living forest. It contradicts with the common use adopted in Belovezhskaya Pushcha after the Second World War, by which only dead trees were an object for cutting. Still it is not too surprising this new policy was accepted. The project of purchasing the saw bench and the construction of the new wood processing plant was secretly prepared under administrative pressure. It had not been openly discussed with many experts of the National Park, while the public opinion was completely ignored. A pure and appropriate ecological examination of the project was not provided either.

Immediately after the timber processing workshop started functioning in 1999 appropriate problems emerged. Due to the fact that the saw bench was an old, second hand one it broke down often. Moreover, there was a deficit in experts which were skilled to the necessary extent. The computer operated saw bench requires appropriately qualification of the operating staff. From the moment the saw bench had been adapted to process a crude timber, extracted from the living forest — while for decades only dead trees were cut in the Pushcha — the concentration of dust of fine wood in the air of the premise caused problems. Specific vacuum dust cleaners, which are required to prevent the high concentrations of dust, were not included in the equipment of the saw bench. The concentration of dust increased the risk of explosions. Dust of fine wood which comes free from processing coniferous trees contains an amount of pitches that constitute a threat to the health of human beings in the concentrations that were present. For those reasons the saw bench has been in working order for some years as a clandestine, underground business and without obligatory official permission of the State Commission.

Still the most important problem will be outlined here. During the period the huge sawmill was build up a natural end came to the mass breeding of Bark beetle and the demand for raw timber lowered at the same time. The former leaders of the timber processing workshop had different ideas on the future use of the sawmill. At first they pressed their own service departments, forcing them to find come up with the necessary timber from Belovezhskaya Pushcha in order to keep the saw bench loaded with work. Thereafter they studied an idea to purchase and import timber from Kareliya and Siberia. However, calculations indicated that such long-distance transport of timber is not profitable. The former leaders exploited wood cutting territories in other areas of Belarus. Therefore brigades of the National Park's workers were sent elsewhere to fell timber and transport the wood towards the National Park. In 2001, at the time that Nickolai Bambiza had been nominated for the position of General Director, timber with increased concentrations of radioactive elements was delivered to the sawmill in Belovezhskaya Pushcha for some months. It had been removed from forests in the vicinity of the Pripyatski National Park, which was under supervision of Bambiza at previous time, near to the radioactive zone of Chernobyl. Eventually all projects on transporting wood to the plant in the Pushcha were cancelled due to the low profitability of the project and the limited income generated at processing the wood. Wood from the Belovezhskaya Pushcha National Park promised to provide more interesting perspectives, from the economic point of view that is.

(Territorial scheme of timber processing workshop)

The new timber workshop is depicted here.

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(Village of Kamenyuki,
July, 2001) 

This picture shows the territory the timber procession workshop covered in 2001. The volumes of timber processed were moderate at that time. All wood to be sawn could be processed in proper time.

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(Village of Kamenyuki,
July, 2001) 

In the meantime terms for the payment of credits were over. The administration of the National Park got into financial debt. The collective of thousand people working for the Park became the hostage of the poorly planned project of the wood processing plant. To find a way out of the impasse the new administration of the National Park has targeted the management to the intensification of wood cutting in Belovezhskaya Pushcha in order to increase the workload of the timber processing workshop, in order to let it function at full power. The management was successful in setting an accepted pretext since at that time a new infection of Bark beetle appeared in the forest. Presently the saw bench operates in three shifts; during the morning, at daytime and at night, while it is unable now to process the entire volume of timber delivered to the plant.

The picture shows the entrance to the timber processing workshop, where control is carried out. The vessel carries timber. It drives into the territory of the workshop and is being loaded with valuable timber which is being extracted from Belovezhskaya Pushcha.

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(Village of Kamenyuki,
September 3, 2002) 

Pictures of the territory of the timber processing workshop made in 2002 on the same location as the previous one. The volume of cutting of timber from the Pushcha has been considerably increased. The load of wood to be processed surpasses the capacity of the saw bench. Nonetheless, timber is being delivered continuously, no matter that no empty platform was left to put the timber to. Gradually a significant part of the territory of the timber processing workshop got filled up with «mountains» of timber intended for procession in the plant. Part of the timber started rotting in the forest, as it was impossible to remove it on time, and the decay continued on the territory of the timber processing workshop, which lowered the technical quality of the wood more and more. On the pictures cracked trunks are visible as well as bark falling off.

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(Village of Kamenyuki,
July 27, 2002) 

 

Gradually nearly the whole area of the sawmill got completely piled with timber. As there remained no more place to stock arriving timber, workers started to unload the delivered timber in disorder, all around the territory of the workshop.

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(Village of Kamenyuki,
August 28, 2002) 

A view on the platforms for storing the saw-timbers.

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(Pictures 1, 2 - village of Kamenyuki, August 28, 2002; picture 3 - January 29, 2003 *photo by IREX/Promedia)

New and old timber is stored and being mixed up on the territory of the workshop.

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(Pictures 1-3 - village of Kamenyuki, August 28, 2002; picture 4 - January 29, 2003 *photo by IREX/Promedia)

On these pictures, made one year after the previous ones, the small stocks of planks that were available in 2001 have grown out to «mountains» of saw-timber during the following year. As there was only limited progress in sale of the saw-timber negative effects could be noted on the quality of the stored timber. As a result of storage in the open air the wood turned black and started to decay.

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(Pictures 1, 2 - village of Kamenyuki, August 28, 2002; pictures 3, 4 - November 21, 2002)
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Village of Kamenyuki, November 21, 2002

These panoramic pictures were made from the top of a «wooden mountain», from a high stack of piled planks. The view ranges from west to east. Impressive mountains of timber, stored to be sawn later for a very long time «pass through the horizon» up to the loading crane.

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(Village of Kamenyuki,
October 26, 2002) 

On the other side (view from east to west) simply the same kind of «wooden mountains», made up of logs being put together and ready to be processed «pass through the horizon» as well. The stacks located here behind the crane can be seen partially on the previous pictures.

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(Pictures 1-3 - village of Kamenyuki, November 21, 2002; picture 4 - October 26, 2002)

These and previous pictures do show the evidence that massive volumes of timber to be processed is stored, showing a recent increase in the scope of logging in Belovezhskaya Pushcha. If we add here the mountains of logs that are located around basic storage platforms and on numerous stacks of wood situated within the forests of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, you are able to imagine the size of the load of wood that is being cut in the Primeval Forest and which threat this activity brings to the Pushcha. The most surprising fact is that even timber processing at this scale did not solve the basic economic problem of Belovezhskaya Pushcha, which is the income necessary to pay for the loans, an equivalent of millions of Dollars. Is there a way out?

Further: Hurricane