Moscow region peat bogs are already smouldering

Moscow region peat bogs are already smouldering

21 April 2011

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Russia — Moscow region authorities are doing all they can to prevent a repeat of the devastating fires to the south-east, east and north-east of the capital the that gripped the region last summer, says Vassily Gromov, deputy head of Moscow region government.

They have done “everything to make sure that 2010’s sad events do not repeat themselves,” Gromov told Interfax.

Peat bogs already burning

While officials are to pains to stress that everything is being done to keep the fires down and the smoke away, commuters to Moscow already report smoke coming from the fields in the region.

“One morning I was looking out the window when we were about half way to Moscow, around Khimki and Novopodrezkovo, and I saw a small area of the field burning just next to the train and some village,” Tatiana Sukhoparova, who travels to work from Kryukovo, told The Moscow News.

“At first I thought it was the result of local people not being careful, but then there were two or three more fires as the train kept going and it didn’t look like an accident anymore, peat bogs were burning this whole winter and now, the minute the snow is gone, they are back on fire.”

Moscow region authorities are asking people not to panic about the smouldering peat bogs.

Gromov had announced at a press conference that the bogs would be taken care of by mother nature, “They do not present a danger, melt water will flood them in the spring anyway,” he said.

Don’t go into the woods

However, the official steered clear of “100 per cent guarantees,” arguing that most fires were started by people’s barbecues, Interfax reported.

Last week Moscow region governor Boris Gromov signed a decree banning people from going into the forests from May, 1. Until now these measures have only been taken during extreme situations, but after last year’s experiences the authorities have decided to cut the problem off at the pass.

Gromov said that forests with fallen trees could also pose problems. “Unfortunately, the forestry department does not have enough money to clear the forest of fallen trees in the region. They plan to clear only 10 per cent of the territory that got burned last year,” he said.

The scale of the problem

The total area of peat bogs in Moscow region is 260,000 hectares, but only 65,000 are thought to be dangerous and will be flooded. 20-22,000 hectares will be flooded in 2011. Four billion roubles are to be spent on the programme altogether.

1,200 houses and about 1 million hectares of forest disappeared into the flames on Russia’s European territory during last year’s fires. 53 people lost their lives.

Moscow region deputy head of government Nikolai Pishchev said a quarter of the peat bogs have already been doused in the area.

Gromov said the bogs will be flooded over 3-4 years, which will require 3.7 billion roubles by 2013-2014.

Lack of coordination

During last summer’s blaze the authorities had to fall back on volunteers support to battle the blaze and volunteers say that, despite satellite aided technology, efforts still lack coordination.

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