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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Governor Outlines Plans for Siberian Super-City

A project to create a million-strong eastern Siberian super-city by linking Irkutsk with neighboring towns Angarsk and Shelekov was outlined by Irkutsk Governor Alexander Tishanin on Friday.

Speaking at a Moscow conference organized by the Regional Development Ministry, Tishanin described plans to build a new transport network linking the towns together, open a new international airport and relocate part of the region's administration. Proposals also include the creation of a number of industrial and recreational zones.

"The agglomeration process is especially important for Siberia and the Far East," Tishanin said, explaining that the plan is intended to provide eastern Siberia with a major population and financial hub.

"In these regions the communications network is overstretched and there are only two major towns with populations of over 1 million -- Omsk and Novosibirsk," Tishanin said.

Tishanin said the project would help stimulate significant growth for the region's businesses, create a larger and more varied pool for the local labor market and assist the regeneration of long-neglected infrastructure.

The new Irkutsk International Airport is slated to open some time from 2010 to 2011, Tishanin said, Vedomosti reported Monday.

Friday's speech followed a roundtable discussion in December, during which Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev was reported to have given his tentative backing for the project.

The plan comes as the latest in a series of moves to overcome Siberia's geographical dislocation following local residents' decision to agree to the merger of the Irkutsk region with the Ust-Ordynsky Buryatsky autonomous district in a referendum in April.

With Irkutsk situated only 60 kilometers from Lake Baikal, any proposed development in the region faces a minefield of potential environmental objections.

Marina Rikhvanova, co-founder of Irkutsk-based environmental organization Baikal Environmental Wave, said that although she was in favor of anything that assisted the economic development of the Irkutsk region, a thorough process of consultation would be necessary.

In April, environmental concerns led to President Vladimir Putin intervening to ensure the route of a proposed multibillion-dollar oil pipeline was redirected further to the north of Lake Baikal.