A local branch of Russian gas giant Gazprom has resumed lawsuits against dozens of families in Daghestan in an attempt to demolish residential buildings along the Mozdok–Kazimagomed gas pipeline. The Daghestani authorities, who promised to find a compromise, have so far failed to resolve the situation.
Up to 500 residential buildings, as well as schools and kindergartens, may face demolition for being too close to the Mozdok–Kazimagomed pipeline. The pipeline transports gas from Azerbaijan through Daghestan and Chechnya to the North Ossetian town of Mozdok.
The lawsuits are being pursued by Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Makhachkala, Gazprom local gas distributor for Daghestan. Gazprom is more than 50% owned by the Russian government.
Gusen Atsiyev, a resident of the village of Shalasi, in Daghestan’s southeastern Kayakent District, told OC Media that in July, the courts ruled in favour of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Makhachkala. He said that according to the ruling, he should demolish his home himself.
According to Atsiyev, if the ruling were carried out it would leave him and his family homeless. He said that he bought the house in 1991 and that it was built in 1975.
The Mozdok–KaziMagomed pipeline was completed in 1983.
According to Atsiyev, his house lies 211 metres from the pipeline, while minimal allowed distance is 300 metres. He said that houses neighbouring his own were in the same situation and that his neighbours also had nowhere to go.
Albina Abdulkerimova, a lawyer representing residents of the village of Filya, in southeastern Daghestan’s Magaramkent District, told OC Media that Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Makhachkala had already won several court cases in the village.
Abdulkerimova said that residents who had been ordered to demolish their homes had filed counterclaims against the company demanding new housing or monetary compensation, but that the courts ruled against them.
‘A systemic problem’
Magomed Abakarov, a resident of the village of Pervomayskoye in the Kayakent District, told OC Media that the courts had upheld claims by Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Makhachkala in 2017 and ordered that 75 houses in the village be demolished.
He said that after local residents protested, the then–head of Daghestan, Ramazan Abdulatipov, asked that bailiffs postpone the execution of these court decisions for a year.
According to Abakarov, no one bothered them for two years, but in the light of new lawsuits from the gas company, they expect renewed efforts to enforce the court decisions.
The head of Kayakent District, Magomedemin Gadzhiyev, told OC Media that the problem could be solved by moving the pipeline further away from the village, but that this would cost more than ₽60 million ($910,000).
The same solution was proposed in 2017 by the former chair of the Government of Daghestani, Abdusamad Gamidov. According to him, the authorities allowed people to build in these territories 15–20 years ago, and many of the owners of the buildings had construction permits to prove this.
As part of a reconstruction programme, the gas company already moved a part of the pipeline away from residential buildings in the Daghestani capital, Makhachkala, and in two other districts of the republic.
In July 2018, the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights published recommendations after receiving numerous complaints from residents of Daghestan about the demolition of houses.
According to the recommendations, the situation was a ‘large systemic problem’ not only in Daghestan but also in the Stavropol Krai, Rostov, Sverdlovsk and other areas. The recommendations said that the way Gazprom chose to defend its rights in court was ‘inappropriate and does not comply with constitutional requirements to ensure everyone’s right to property and housing’.
The council recommended that the gas company apply new technologies to reconstruct gas pipelines and reduce the size of the area on which it is not safe to erect buildings or to replace certain sections of gas pipelines.
A spokesperson for the head of Daghestan, Vladimir Vasilyev, told OC Media that Vasilyev had requested that the Prosecutor’s Office examine the case, but that the results were not yet known.
The Minister of Industry of Daghestan, Saigidpasha Umakhanov, wrote a letter in June to the Director-General of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Makhachkala with a proposal to move the gas pipeline.
A spokesperson for the ministry told OC Media that the company refused to move the pipeline due to a lack of funds. They added that Umakhanov may request that the Daghestani government allocate funds from the budget to move the pipeline.
‘No plans’ to move the pipeline
A spokesperson for Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Makhachkala told OC Media that the company did not plan to move the pipeline. They declined to answer questions concerning the demolition of residential buildings insisting that these buildings were located in the area of the pipeline illegally.
According to a press release provided by the company, there are over 900 permanent buildings within the safety zone of the Mozdok-Kazimagomed gas pipeline, including 500 residential buildings, as well as schools and kindergartens.
According to the press release, living in such buildings amounted to ‘living on a powder keg’, because if an accident were to occur, the explosion could kill anyone within a radius of 500 metres.
The company said it was forbidden to build residential houses or other buildings, to graze livestock, or to carry out any other work near gas pipelines without the permission of the operator of a pipeline.