Current Digest of the Post-Soviet Press, October 2, 2002 Source: Izvestia, Sept. 6, 2002, pp. 1-2. By Gennady Anisimov, Konstantin Getmansky, Natalya Granina, Vladimir Demchenko and Anna Filimonova
Aleksei Lyakhov, head of the Hydrometeorology Bureau for Moscow and Moscow Province, told Izvestia that this summer has been the driest in the past 100 years. The only other similar drought was in 1972.
“There certainly hasn’t been anything like this before,” Sergei Kurkin, head of the department of civil defense and emergency situations in Shatura District, Moscow Province, told Izvestia. “Even in 1972, the drought lasted only a month and a half, but this year it’s been dragging on ever since April. Right now we have almost 500 soldiers from the Ministry for Emergency Situations digging up the ground, and tanker planes make flights all day, dumping out water. But all of this isn’t enough. Planes are fine for putting out forest fires, but they can’t get at the peat fires. There’s nowhere for us to get water; the ponds and reservoirs have all dried up. Swamps that it was once possible to get stuck in are now like asphalt.” “A state of emergency should have been declared in Moscow Province two months ago,” said Andrei Rulyov, head of the atmospheric air section of the Moscow Province department of natural resource use, commenting on the Moscow Province authorities’ decision to declare a state of emergency in 22 districts in the province. “But at that point the province authorities evidently wanted to save money.” Because of this economizing, smoke from fires in Moscow Province has caused heavy smog in Moscow for the umpteenth time this summer. Aleksei Lyakhov told Izvestia that last weekend [Aug. 31-Sept. 1], when Moscow was celebrating City Day, special planes were used to prevent the possibility of a brief downpour over the city. The Moscow authorities spent several million rubles on the “good weather,” a decision they surely regretted bitterly yesterday. Unfortunately, doing the opposite, causing rain, has proved impossible. . . .