25 April 2019, Thursday, 7:55
For our and your freedom!

Rebellion on Polesie: "They Want to Take Away Everything!"

Poleshuks aren't going surrender without a fight.

Pripyatsky National Park wants to expand its territory by adding the largest Belarusian lake Chervonoye, as well as the three-kilometer zone of its lands. But these plans have a large number of opponents. The locals are sure that if the national park succeeds, they will not see their lake again. They say it's happened here before, tut.by says.

The situation is not peaceful on the bank of the Chervonoye on Monday afternoon. Several dozen men of different professions, social status and occupations have come together to stand for the one they value. Even before the New Year there was a rumor in Polesie: the Pripyatsky National Park wanted to own the lake. The corresponding draft presidential decree told about it.

Since then, the Poleshuks have tied themselves in knots. Letters were sent to different ministries and departments demanding to stay away from the Chervonoye. People hope to reach out to the ruler and tell him about the real situation.

Chervonoye Lake (Prince Lake) is the third largest lake in Belarus. It is located 20 km away from Zhitkovichi, near the village of Pukhavichy. Its area is of 40 sq. km, length - 11 km, width - 3.5 km.

In 2010 the presidential decree donated a part of the lake (1.1 thousand hectares) to the Pripyatsky National Park for hunting purposes.

Since 2015 3.1 thousand hectares of the lake's hunting areas have been rented by Zhitkovichi foresty, and since 2017 Chervonoye has been rented by Zhitkovichikhimservis for amateur and commercial fishing. By the way, the enterprise annually fishes out about 100 tons, other 30 tons are fished out by amateurs.

It is said that it's the story when fishermen and the locals are satisfied with tenants. Temporary owners cleaned the lake, installed stages on the territory and stocked up with fish. At the same time, prices for hunting and fishing vouchers were not high.

The mood turns spikiest

- Our enterprises won the tender, put things in order, and all of a sudden a man comes and asks to give it all to him!", men resents.

To say that they are strictly against the transfer of the lake to the new owner is to say nothing. People warn that relations between the locals and the leadership of the national park have been tough for many years, and they are "not going to surrender Chervonoye without a fight".

The locals believe that the new owner will not allow them to even visit Chervonoye, where many of them grew up. Examples already exist.

- 60% of the territory of our district has already been transferred to the Pripyatsky National Park: farmland, arable lands, ponds, forests. People in the district are almost deprived of the opportunity to hunt, fish out and even pick mushrooms and berries. Everything in the area is surrounded by high fences and barriers. In Cheretyanka the Pripyatsky took away Mlynok Lake - leisure and fishing have been prohibited there for many years. We can't go into the forest near Polyanka either, all is fenced," Siarhei, Zhitkovichi resident, says.

Local people say that current tenants succeed in the major thing - to make money on fishing and hunting, to properly replenish the district budget, and not to insult ordinary people. The number of travel ticket issued by the Pripyatsky to the local population for hunting in their territories can be counted on fingers in recent years.

- Raise your hand, who has managed to buy it?

- There are none! All the vouchers are issued for officials and friends only [the Deneral Director of the Pripyatsky National Park Stsyapan Bambiza]," the crowd says.

- And prices! If a hunting voucher costs 6 rubles in the forestry and 6 rubles for fishing in the "khimservis", but it costs 20 rubles in the National Park.

- The lake is not only leisure time for us, but it is also our livelihood; you know what salaries we earn here. Life is hard, and they want to take the last one away from us," the crowd resents.

Zhitkovichihsky forestry and Zhitkovichikhimservis say they have not seen any official documents about the transfer of Chervonoye yet, so it is too early to ring the alarm. Though "off the record" they admit: they haven't been in the mood these days.

- We have a ten-year lease agreement. We have invested money and are certainly interested in further activity," Ihar Halavach, director of Zhitkovichihimservis, says.

The national park itself called fears of the locals "nonsense" and asked them not to "stoke".

- All that is being done to expand lands. It solely aims at preservation of nature for people No fences are allowed. Both amateur and commercial fishing on Lake Chervonoye will be carried out without interference of the national park. In addition, we plan to reduce the cost of hunting vouchers for the locals on the lands under transfer," Stsyapan Bambiza, General Director of Pripyatsky National Park assures.

But the locals don't believe him. They wonder what an obstacle was to do it with the territory which had been rented by the national park since 2010? Why should anything be changed now?