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Altai community approves gas pipeline construction to China following harsh argument

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At a public hearing held on March 22 in Gorno-Altaisk, a project of construction of Altai pipeline exporting natural gas to China was approved by 106 votes (disapproved by 64), REGNUM correspondent reports referring to founder of Gorno-Altaisk Listok weekly Sergey Mikhailov.

According to Mikhailov, about 200 people took part in the hearing. Speeches of representatives of Gazprom and government of the Republic of Altai were followed by objections of the construction opponents. In the latters view, it would inflict irreparable damage to the high-mountain plateau Ukok, through which the pipeline is supposed to be laid. Besides, Altai national leaders fear that laying the pipeline and accompanying technical highway will pave way for a Chinese expansion into Altai.

Despite the vigor of the opponents of the Altai pipeline construction, the project was approved by majority vote.

Earlier, public hearings on the issue were held in the regions of the Republic of Altai, Altai Territory, and Tomsk Oblast.

As REGNUM informed earlier, president of Russia Vladimir Putin informed on March 21, 2006 during his visit to China of the intention of the Russian authorities to lay two natural gas pipelines from Siberia to China in the near future. The president said that creating a new pipeline system under the provisional name “Altai” through the western Russian-Chinese border was possible. Russia, he said, would supply to China 60-80bn cubic meters of gas annually. Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller estimated the cost of the new gas pipeline at about $10bn. It is expected that the pipeline will be launched in 2011.

It is suggested in the project that the pipeline will cross the Russian-Chinese border in the territory of the Republic of Altai that borders in the south with the Xinjang Uighur Autonomous Region of China. The length of the border between the two countries in this region is 54 km.

Total stretch of the pipeline is almost 2, 700 kilometers. It is to cross the Yamalo-Nenetsk and Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Areas, Tomsk and Novosibirsk Oblasts, Altai Territory, and the Republic of Altai. In the territory of the Republic of Altai, the pipeline is to cross the Zona Pokoia Ukok Natural Park.

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