15%of Environment in Russia Fails to Meet Admissible Norms
ITAR-TASSNews Agency, 25 July 2003
ByTimur Prokopenko and Anatoly Franovsky
More than 15 percent of the Russian territory has an environment that does not meet any admissible norms, head of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources Vitaly Artyukhov said in the course of a meeting of the Council of the leaders of the Central Federal District. He said more than sixty percent of the Russian population live in polluted areas and the main part of GDP is produced in those areas. The fire risks of the past two years showed that the ministry of natural resources and the ministry for emergency situations should step up efforts to gain better control over the elements, the minister said. He recalled that the situation remained most alarming in the country’s Siberian and Far Eastern regions. Earlier on Friday, head of the forest protection department of the Ministry of Natural Resources. Alexei Yermolenko declared that since the beginning of this year, more forests have been damaged by fire than in the entire year 2002. “Since the beginning of fire-prone season, 20,000 seats of fire have been registered in the Russian forests. They affected an area of 1.7 million hectares,” Yermolenko noted. According to the Ministry of Natural Resources, 37 thousand fires that burned in the Russian forests last year ravaged 1.3 million hectares. According to the Rosgidromet hydrometeorology committee, no weather conditions of this kind have been registered in Siberia in the past 108 years. “Heat waves and winds coupled with absence of precipitation resulted in a 5-fold increase in the number of fires in Siberia over the past year,” Yermolenko said. This year, smudge produced by forest fires enveloped many towns and other residential locations in the Khabarovsk territory. In the taiga residential locations, the combustion product pollution of the air is such that even healthy people feel shortage of oxygen in the air and people suffering from chronic diseases of the respiratory tract take it particularly hard. As regards the pollution of the water bodies, the Central Federal District occupies the first place among all the federal districts, Artyukhov said. In his view, uncontrolled discharges of all kind of waste to the water bodies were the main cause of the existing situation. He stressed that over four thousand criminal cases had been opened last year as result of inspection of the use of natural resources.