N 4, 2002

Fairy from Chernorud

Igor Shirobokov

When at the IV-th International Woman's Forum it was solemnly declared that the honorary title of the "Guardian of the Baikal lake" was awarded to Galina Protasovna Khamarkhanova, a lot of people could be surprised: head of administration of a small coastal settlement - what could she do so extraordinary for the Baikal lake?

Surely, she could not have closed the notorious Baikal pulp mills, since it was too much even for presidents. But she could almost succeed in improving the life of her settlement inhabitants and to introduce order in the armlets of the Small sea, and it is quite a lot. After all, the big picture of our life and ecological well-being consist of these small things and, as it is well-known, one should begin with minor things, at least, to put in order his own thoughts. May be it is proper to remind a copy-book truth that the Baikal lake does not pollute itself, it is polluted by people. It means that the biggest problem of the Baikal is economical, social, moral, cultural state of the population, its educational level. International organizations can allot enormous funds for protection of biological variety and nature, but the hungry population, for the sake of nourishment, would kill everything running, flying and swimming

 Galina Khamarkhanova was born in Chernorud, the Buryat settlement in taiga hills around the Baikal. She finished school there, she came back to this place upon graduation from the Pedagogical Institute. Then, as fate willed, she had to leave for the North, for as long as twenty years. The Khamarkhanovs returned in 1993 and she recommenced teaching the Russian language and Literature. But she chanced to be school teacher only for three months. The elections of the head of settlement administration were called and its inhabitants proposed to Galina to take, so to say, a steering wheel. Khamarkhanova accepted and won rather easily. Usually men would not mind "steering wheel" themselves, but in rich cities and districts, and in such settlements as Chernorud, where there is no either manufacturing plants, nor budget funds, nor prospects, there is no queue of candidates to the post

The settlement was dying. No jobs, the youth was running away, the inhabitants were degrading before their own very eyes, sinking in hard drinking and theft. You would cry of despair and see no way out! Twenty years ago, before her departure to the North, there were some prospects in the agriculture; some people even bought "Lada" cars, but a relative well-being accustomed them to a striking parasitic smugness. Imagine a picture when a head of numerous family - his senior children are already in prison and his junior ones do not go to school yet - comes to the office of administration and hardly crossing the threshold announces: "I have just counted up the reserve of my supplies in the cellar - the stock of potatoes is enough to feed us only till March. So you should think over how we will survive" And then he leaves with a feeling that he did his duty. Think it over And who hindered you to plant more potatoes or to keep another bull-calf for sale? But you cannot change this type of apology for a father and you cannot lose children since without them Chernorud has no future.

As a pedagogue, Galina Khamarkhanova felt the coming catastrophe. The school is closed, the club-house is nailed up - somebody considered them "excessive" for unpromising Chernorud. Children were sent to study to boarding schools and vocational schools, where, turned off from their families and given free hand, they rather soon became influenced by criminals. They would begin with fights to defend themselves and would finish with robbery and pillage, in the end enlarging the number of convicts. Nowadays one would not meet 30-year-old men in the settlement - they vanished in this criminal gap. But today's teenagers study and work on their native land, the criminal traditions were broken. And Khamarkhanova hopes that is for ever. Only she knows how many forces and health she had to spend to reopen the secondary school and the club-house. She considers this achievement as the main deed of her life. The school is a foundation of life and on this solid foundation you can erect all the remaining.

Today in Chernorud they celebrate weddings, build new houses, keep more cattle in the farms - life returns to the dying settlement. Well, really the head of administration has something to boast of, but she was awarded the title of "Guardian of the Baikal lake" not for opening the school Let us put it in the following: the school was the first and necessary step to rebirth of life on the coast of the great lake. Galina does not yield to exaggerate her achievements, she considers that her longstanding efforts helped to inhabitants to realize how to use and protect the riches of the Baikal today.

The settlement is located on the coast of warm armlets of the Small sea (which lays between the island Olykhon and the western coast of the Baikal), the favorite place for rest of so many thousands of citizens from Irkutsk. The tourism should have supported the Chernorud inhabitants. But it is not so easy. Holiday season is very short and does not last for more than two months, in the interval the armlets are vacant. But in July-August the coast is attacked by a decuman wave of "wild" vacationists, devastating and uncontrollable. A picturesque bay, according to calculations capable to host not more than 60-80 people, is overcrowded by 300 vacationists - with all the consequences to follow. The nature is depressed. Only waste products of "human" activity are left behind and you cannot call them picturesque.

How and by what means to dispose of and to utilize the waste products and tailings? How to regulate the tourists' flood? How to make the "wild" tourism to be civilized and ecological? In solution of these questions Galina Khamarkhanova sees the key to well-being of her settlement and of the Baikal itself. This is a united task.

From the very beginning of her activity that was the reason for Galina Khamarkhanova to knock at the doors of all state, scientific and public organizations, engaged in problems of the Baikal. She won two grants of Global Ecological Fund, achieved approval of the program of ecological and economical development of Chernorud, established cooperation with the Baikal Regional Union of Women "Angara", with "Baikal ecological wave" and with the Institute of Geography, etc.

Joint projects, new relations and acquaintances helped to move the thing from the dead point. Today the inhabitants of Chernorud have a prestigious profession - corps man-ecologist. They have a lot to do: to develop the places of rest, to carry out ecological education, to dispose of garbage and waste products. Last year, for example, 132 trucks removed garbage from the beach. The garbage is delivered nowadays at a specially equipped dump of municipal company "Mukhor", not to a district center, which was 80 km from the settlement. It is not generally accepted to speak enthusiastically about garbage and dumps, but Galina speak abut them just rapturously, because thanks to her efforts the Baikal becomes a little cleaner. She tells about it as if she sings a song: with scientists from the Institute of Geography for a long time they sorted out a proper site for the dump, since they had to take into account both relief and rose of winds and depth of subsoil waters - at last they managed to choose the ideal site. Later it was necessary to approve everything with functionaries, to register officially the allotment of land etc - she had to visit so many offices! After that she had to organize the work of bulldozer for trenching ("as soon as the trench is filled up we shall cover it with earth and plant trees over it!"). Now she needs to purchase a dump press - an appropriate agreement was reached with "Greenpeace". But where to find the funds for the press? Earlier the Baikal National Park collected considerable money for entry to the zone of the Small sea, but it was illegal. The municipal company "Mukhor" established the Visitors Center, which registers the vacationists and collect charitable contributions for cleaning of the coast. The public prosecutor appealed against this undertaking. We can argue about it in the court but, probably, it is better to find a compromise: better to collect money for cleaning and development right on the beaches - then the vacationists would know and see what they pay for. We have to do something with overpopulation of the beaches. With Union of women "Angara" we established a working group to work out a regulation program of the vacationists flow, we hope to start it by the next season.

And also Galina Khamarkhanova plans to open a cafe, to provide supply of meat and milk for the vacationists, to build up ecological village - she has a lot of ideas. If life of people becomes cleaner and better it is a common good for the Baikal as well. The lady-guardian from Chernorud does not doubt it.