Earth Well, a Beijing-based natural drinking water company, plans to start construction of a bottled water factory costing 1.6 billion rubles (.2 million) near the Lake Baikal in Russia this year, despite reported petitions from local residents opposing the project.
During an exclusive interview with the Global Times on Thursday, the Chinese company's senior executives discussed their current efforts to ensure the protection of the local environment. The company said it has employed a Russian professional company to conduct an environmental assessment of the plan.
Guo Fengwu, an investor and partner of Earth Well, told the Global Times that it will strictly follow the environmental requirements of the Russian authorities, who pay great attention to ecological balance. As a result, the project will not cause damage to the local ecology, as some Russian media reports have claimed.
According to Russian-language news website mirnov.ru, more than 300,000 residents of the Irkutsk region abutting the lake in Russia have started two online petitions against the construction of the plant, which they claim will cause irreparable harm to local environment.
There are already four indigenous bottled water plants in Irkutsk, which borders Buryatia, where the Earth Well plant will be built up.
In 2015, Earth Well, also known as Beijing Jin Bei Yuan, signed a deal with the Republic of Buryatia, a federal subject of Russia, to construct the plant, which is authorized to pump about 2 million tons of water per year.
Russian authorities have conducted some assessments to prove that the project would not damage the local ecology; otherwise "our project could not get local government's authorization," Di Gang, chairman of the Chinese company, told the Global Times.
Lake Baikal is considered to be one of the clearest lakes in the world, carrying about 60 cubic kilometers, or 15.8 trillion gallons of clear and richly oxygenated water into the Arctic Ocean every year. Given this volume, moderate exploitation of Lake Baikal will cause no harm to the local ecology, Russian expert Mikhail Grachev was quoted by local media outlet kommersant.ru on Tuesday as saying.
The Earth Well executives indicated that the project will be a win-win deal, generating tax revenue for the local government and creating at least 400 jobs.
The bottled water produced from the plant in Russia will be targeted at medium-income families in China, said Guo, who showed confidence in the prospects of the high-quality water products.