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The president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared a state of emergency in a region in northern Siberia following a power plant fuel leak in its Arctic region that resulted in the leak of 20,000 tonnes of diesel oil to escape into a local river, Ambarnaya, turning the surface of the river which is a part of a network that flows into the Arctic Ocean, crimson red.

Reason behind the leak

The thermoelectric power plant at Norilsk is built on Permafrost, which has weakened over the years due to climate change. The pillars that supported the plant’s fuel tank collapsed which resulted in the leak. The oil leaked more than seven miles from the site.

Who is responsible for the incident? 

Norilsk Nickel, the Russian mining giant is responsible for the incident and is no stranger to environmental disasters. It was also responsible for a Blood river in Siberia, 2016.

What has been done so far? 

The leak that took place on 29th May 2020, came to the notice of the Region’s governor, two days later after an “alarming information appeared on social media”. Angered by this, President Putin after declaring the state of emergency, ordered a probe into the incident.

The company, along with the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, dispatched hundreds of personnel to clean up the mess and special containment booms were installed, but they were unable to contain the oil because of shallow waters.

Extent of damage caused

Environmentalists claim that it would take at least 10 years for the local ecosystem to recover, considering the magnitude of the spill. A World Wildlife Fund described this as the second-largest known oil leak in modern Russia’s history in terms of volume. Greenpeace Russia compared the discharge to the Exxon Valdez tanker spill in Alaska, 1989.

Legal implications

Despite the leak happening last week, the power plant’s director did not alert the Russian authorities for two days and instead tried to limit the spread in secret. He has been detained, and the Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case to investigate the alleged negligence, after the reported delay in informing the authorities.

Measures suggested by the concerned authority

The Russian minister of natural resources during a video conference with Putin opposed setting the vast quantity of oil afire and recommended diluting the layer with reagents.

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