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Baikalsk emerged from the shadow of the BPPM

Green economy, tourism, sports, environmentally friendly products - it is due to these areas that it is planned to bring the city of Baikalsk out of the protracted depression.

The development plans are directly related to the liquidation of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM). Now, in parallel, important events are taking place that will affect the life of not only the city "By the Lake". His example can become a model for the development of other settlements that have lost their city-forming enterprises. The task is to create a modern, economically and environmentally sustainable, friendly and comfortable city for residents and tourists on the ruins of an old industrial site. The tasks of managing the BPPM at the stage of bankruptcy were assigned to VEB.RF. And the same state corporation was instructed to develop a model of the future of Baikalsk. We are talking with Anton Grigorov, senior managing banker of VEB.RF, about what is planned to be created here.

Baikalsk emerged from the shadow of the BPPM
Photo: press service of the government of the Irkutsk obals

Anton Grigorov

- It is clear that without the final liquidation of the BPPM it is impossible to develop the city of Baikalsk, since this plant occupies a significant area on the shore of Lake Baikal and creates not the most advantageous background for the development of tourism, a green economy and other things that could be done on this territory. How is the bankruptcy of BPPM going now?  

- At the beginning of last year, a single lot of the main property of the BPPM was formed. After signing an agreement with En + in January of this year and leaving the courts, the lot was bargained for, the procedure was completed.

BAIKAL CENTER - The Baikal Region Development Center (a subsidiary of VEB.RF) bought out 348 units of property, including 244 capital construction projects. The deal with a price of 330 million rubles has been completed, as well as the procedure for re-registering capital construction projects.

Now the property, which is integral to buildings and structures, and ensures the activities of the office in Baikalsk, will also be purchased by BAIKAL.TSENTR.

As for bankruptcy: there are still several hundred units of movable property left at the BPPM.

With regard to everything else, the implementation procedure is being launched, and in part has already been launched. This property is not needed by a future project and will be sold out within six months.

According to the preliminary plans, we wanted to liquidate the legal entity OJSC “BPPM” by the end of this year. We hope to complete this procedure in the second quarter of 2022.

- How are things going with the development of a master plan for the integrated development of Baikalsk and adjacent territories? This task was also entrusted to VEB.RF by the instruction of the President.

- The strategic master plan of Baikalsk, including the former industrial site of the BPPM, is the foundation, the first most important step in the framework of a large-scale project for the integrated development of this territory. It provides a general vision and sets the strategic vector of development, while being the basis for specific changes, for example, in terms of urban planning documentation.

We launched on the site project a large-scale program for involving local residents, having received a significant array of hypotheses, suggestions and wishes from those who are primarily interested in the development of the city. We also modified the primary terms of reference quite strongly, deepening it significantly in many areas.

Initially, it was assumed that federal programs would automatically work, but this is not the case. Now we are formulating proposals on how we can help the region here. And the most interesting thing is that the output will most likely be a universal tool that other regions will be able to use as well. In other words, the packages of solutions in individual areas that we have formed for Baikalsk are replicable and, with minor adjustments, are applicable to any similar city, and there are many of them in Russia.

In the first quarter, we held about 50 strategic sessions, including about 30-35 preparatory sessions with the participation of federal and regional authorities, city administration, local residents, the business community, as well as about 15 in all areas - with the involvement of the best Russian and international industry experts. We presented the master plan to the leadership of the region, the city at all stages of its preparation, and jointly made adjustments. The final master plan is now generally ready, the financial model of the entire complex development of the territory is being actively refined.              

In parallel, work was ordered separately for the BPPM site. Separate work is needed here, including future site planning, zoning, including documents that will later allow us to make decisions on the implementation of a comprehensive project for the development of the territory, modification of urban development planning documents - this work was launched about a month ago. It is being done by the Siberian Laboratory of Urban Studies.

We also ordered a work, which will be an addition to the master plan, to promote and increase the recognition (marketing) of the territory, and also financed several landmark projects in terms of digitalization of the city - a “digital twin”, a digital master plan. And somewhere in the beginning of autumn, we will start working on the formation of a new general layout of the city.

- What exactly are you planning to develop in Baikalsk?

- When we talk about the development of Baikalsk, we are talking about basic stories, which I will now briefly outline. Preconditions: the first is the accumulated damage in the form of the BPPM industrial site itself, storage cards, completely worn out infrastructure of the city and the very status of the city as a kind of workers' settlement at the plant.

Rosatom deals with storage cards, VEB.RF and BAIKAL.TSENTR - the site of the BPPM. And we expect, and in our part, we are sure that by 2024-25 we will completely resolve the issue of eliminating the accumulated damage.

At our site, there is only one basic issue that needs to be addressed - the heat source. We are actively discussing this issue. If a solution is not found in the near future, then by 2024-25 the CHPP - the territory of the site - will remain standing. If the process is started today, then by 2025-26 the heat source will be replaced, and after that the process of dismantling the existing CHP will take place. A project for its dismantling will be required. This point is likely to be knocked out in 2024, maybe in 2025.

The second prerequisite and challenge at the same time is a large flow of tourists to Lake Baikal. We understand that there are only two points on the shore of the lake that are capable of absorbing this flow in a significant amount. From the side of Buryatia, this is Turk, now it begins to live, the first investors are appearing, the project for the construction of the hotel has already passed an environmental examination, and the work will begin this year. And the second point is Baikalsk.

We understand that it is very difficult to receive a large traffic of tourists on Lake Baikal without harming nature. Therefore, whether we like it or not, the trash in Baikalsk will be removed, the city will undergo modernization, and it will be able to receive a large flow of tourists. Otherwise, there is simply nowhere to take tourists to Lake Baikal without damaging the territory.

In this regard, we see tourism as the main directions of development of Baikalsk - a healthy green sports city, a city of innovations, a city of a green economy, agro-industrial complex and everything related to the production of food products, cosmetics, if applicable. Wild plants, the cultivation of some individual types of products, their processing are additional directions for the development of this territory. Establishment of an international volunteer center "GOOD CENTER" and "Schools of trail building". By the way, in August, with the support of BAIKAL.CENTER, the first shift will take place. Well, yes, water, of course. One of the anchor investors for the construction of the International Water Resources Center - En +.

- Who is directly involved in the development of the master plan?

- A number of organizations are involved in the development of the master plan. KB Strelka is the main contractor, they subcontract the Siberian Laboratory of Urban Studies. The entire BAIKAL CENTER is also involved in this work.

About 60 people took part in the creation of the master plan. It is difficult to say the number of specialists involved, but it is more than 200 people. Plus a huge number of experts, residents, regional authorities. In total, there are several hundred people, including experts at the federal level, federal executive authorities, the scientific community, environmental activists, and so on. In general, everyone who is not indifferent to the fate of this project was involved in the process of its creation.

- According to the financial model: do you mean any state programs, the Fund for the Development of Single-Industry Towns, funds for the implementation of a project to create a special economic zone of tourist and recreational type, etc.?

- Including this. For each area, we consider the sources of funding. We need to understand the model as a whole: from what sources, in what time frame what activities will be implemented, and also what will be the return of these funds - for investors, for participants, for VEB.RF, but most importantly - for the budgets of four levels: federal, regional, municipal district and Baikal MO.

We continue to calculate the model, but now we understand that the state budget system will reimburse all those costs that are requested, and in the foreseeable future, and not until 2040. Until 2040, it will multiply its investments, and their main return will occur by 2030-31.

As for commercial projects, we understand that we will have a special economic zone, what will happen with the economy of the entire project as a whole. For the time being, we have a ratio of budget and private investments in this project of one to four: for each ruble of budget investments, we attract about 4 rubles of private ones.

- In addition to En +, other potential investors have probably already appeared?

- Of course they did. We have more than 300 different events, and for many of them (I will not say that for all) there are already potential investors. And some of them already have specific investors who themselves proposed these projects. Some are already doing the documentation.

We have collected all the events and projects that, as we understand, are needed. But some of them are already at one stage or another of implementation - from an idea through all stages to construction. There is Mount Sobolinaya, and the city, and various service stories, including hotels.

- BAIKAL.CENTER was engaged in the audit of pollution objects. Initially, you said that based on the results of this audit, it will become clear whether the new owner of the property complex will cope with the task of eliminating environmental pollution, or state funding will be required. What's the bottom line?

- Our accumulated damage is divided into two blocks: the first is what Rosatom is doing (storage cards and the BPPM treatment plant) and the BPPM site. This second part is now being dealt with by the BAIKAL.CENTER.

We bought the property, under which 230 hectares of land. We ordered design and survey work, which will answer the question - which buildings need to be demolished and which ones can be left? And what do we have on the territory with pollution? They will also look at the state of the underground dome of polluted waters, which has not been pumped out for 10 years already, and we will have an exact understanding of what is happening to it. Research, I think, we will end by winter. And the design documentation for the dismantling of buildings and structures will be ready next spring.

On the the BPPM site is testing modern technological solutions for waste disposal
Photo: press service of the government of the Irkutsk region

If we understand that the reclamation of the site, including the dome and the dismantling of buildings and structures, costs space money, and we cannot reimburse these funds from the project for the integrated development of the city, then we will have to apply with a proposal to transfer this property to the Federal Property Management Agency, or with a proposal to compensate us expenses that we will incur to eliminate the accumulated environmental damage. The most important thing is that at this moment we will have design estimates for dismantling and working with the lens. We will understand specifically what needs to be done, and specifically how much it costs. Therefore, this will most likely not affect the baseline dates: it will be 2024-25.

- How is the interaction with the local authorities organized?

- Oblast, district, city, residents are actively involved in the work. And the business of the region is involved. Of course, there are always dissatisfied people, there is undeserved attention, but this reveals some of our shortcomings, which we also appreciate. In general, the project for the integrated development of Baikalsk is not being prepared by us - it is being prepared by all parties. And it is very correct to consider that the project is common. It would be completely wrong to think that "VEB came and drew something there, and let them do it further, and we'll see what they do." This will not happen for sure!

The work is carried out with all levels of government, federal ministries and departments are involved - Rosturizm, Tourism.RF, the Ministry of Economic Development, the Ministry of Construction, the Ministry of Energy, etc. Everyone is interested in the result.

- You named the topic of the heat source as one of the unpatched forks. What is going on there, what points of view are there?

- What heat source, according to what technology and in what place do we need instead of the coal-fired CHPP, which is now located on the territory of the BPPM? There is no answer to this question at the moment. But not only the parameters depend on it, but I would even say more - the meanings, the ideology of the project.

We will not be able to fully develop either this site or the city if a heat source in the form of a coal-fired boiler house remains on the territory, since we are talking about a green economy, an ecologically clean city, modern technologies and understandable unambiguous trends.

The problem is that the site has already been determined and there is a project for the construction of a new heat source - with coal, pipes, etc., which does not correspond to our basic approaches to the development of this territory. Imagine, all over the world there has been a process of abandoning coal generation for a long time, and we will have a new coal-fired boiler house on Lake Baikal. Agree, it will look very strange.

But, taking into account the experience of our interaction on the development of Baikalsk with all project participants, I hope that we will successfully pass this fork as well. After all, we have one goal - the development of one of the most beautiful and promising places on the shores of Lake Baikal.

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