“Even kill us, even ride on us.” How a Kuban village struggles with a landfill surrounded by rice paddies
The village of Poltava thundered throughout the country in April 2023. Local residents blocked the road along Telman Street for several days. People took turns on duty to keep the garbage trucks out. At some point, the truck literally began to run into people. One elderly woman lost consciousness, but the rest of the protesters were not seriously injured.
The police stood by and watched blankly. As a result, the next day, a man in a wheelchair drove out to the bridge leading to the landfill. He held a banner reading “Stop the Garbage Genocide” in his hand and refused to leave until he spoke to the local police chief. Finally, the head of the district, Yuri Vasin, came to him, and only then was it possible to agree with the pensioner.
The confrontation around the landfill in the village has been going on for almost two years. A small dump was in Poltava since Soviet times, but the garbage did not bother the locals too much. Everything changed in the fall of 2021, when the villagers found out that waste from almost all over the region would be brought to them. Already in the winter of that year, more than a thousand people took to the first street protest action. The journalist Gleb Pyanykh, known for the Maximum program with “scandals, intrigues and investigations,” even came to Poltavaskaya. The Kuban security forces could not stand the intrigue: the reporter was detained almost immediately .
Until November 2021, Natalya Garyaeva did not think at all about the landfill in her native village. The woman developed her own business: her family owns the largest car repair shop in the area and several stores. Now she calls herself the leader of the protest – and other villagers agree with this.
We agreed to an interview with Natalia in one of the buildings of her company. A courteous employee of the company meets us at the door, opens the massive wooden doors and leads us into the boss’s office. Natalya asks to wait a bit – she is talking on the phone, sitting in a massive leather chair. A large table in front of her is lined with flowers – the day before the meeting, Garyaeva had a birthday.
“I was living my life when the people who live closest to the landfill started to panic. All! Catastrophe! You can leave the village, – says Natalia. – I considered myself apolitical, always busy. But when I found out about the scale of the problem, I actively joined the fight.”
Previously, garbage from resort towns, including Tuapse and Sochi, was taken to another landfill among the fields – Belorechensky (about 250 km from Sochi). In 2021, they decided to close it, as it was 1.5 times full. Then the question arose before the Kuban authorities: where to carry tons of garbage?
It was not possible to conclude a contract for the transportation of waste from Sochi for almost 2 billion – not a single application was submitted for the competition, not a single landfill in the region was ready to accept such volumes of garbage. Then the regional Ministry of Fuel and Energy Complex and Housing and Public Utilities reported in their social networks that they were considering the option of a landfill in the village of Poltavskaya.
Natalya says: no one officially warned the inhabitants of the village that they would be transported garbage from the resorts of Tuapse and Sochi. This became known only from documents leaked to the network from a meeting of the interdepartmental commission. According to Garyaeva, the volume of waste should have increased by 5-6 times.
The fact is, says Natalya, that the authorities of the Krasnodar Territory considered a small dump in Poltava to be a MSW landfill. But if a landfill is any, even a spontaneously equipped place where garbage is dumped, then only a specially equipped facility can be a landfill. For example, a landfill should have infrastructure for isolating waste with groundwater, collecting and filtering toxic effluents, and removing landfill gas.
What else distinguishes a landfill from a landfill?
The residents of the village, recalls Garyaeva, did not want to accept garbage from Sochi and Tuapse at all, and they went out to protest. As a result, the authorities abandoned this idea – instead, waste from the neighboring Crimean and Slavyansk regions was taken to Poltava. Strings of garbage trucks pulled into the village and the landfill turned into a giant, fetid landfill, poisoning not only fertile soil, but also people’s lives.
How a Soviet landfill became a family business
The house of pensioner Lyudmila Borisovna Grishkova is located half a kilometer from the current landfill. She recalls that she moved to the village in 1989 – then next to her house there were only treatment facilities and a huge meadow. Immediately behind it was a small district dump.