Russia Prepares for Forest Fire Season

Russia Prepares for Forest Fire Season

05 May 2011

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Russia — Russia is again facing forest fire season.

According to the Ministry of Emergency Situations, about 2,000 fires have started so far this year… with the areas most prone to forest fires increasing by 50 percent from last year.

In 2010, fires first broke out in the central part of the county and then spread to Siberia and the Far East.

But this year, it’s happening the other way around. Abnormally high temperatures are causing many fires to start in Siberia.

Andrew Eritsov, Deputy Chief, Avialesookhrana]:

“To date, the number of fires is more than eight times that of last year in the Republic of Tuva, in Buryatia… 3.5 times, in the Altai Territory… double, in the Krasnoyarsk Territory… five times. Unfortunately, these regions were not ready for this.”

According to forecasts by the Ministry of Emergency Situations, nearly one-third of Russia may experience forest fires.

But this year there are more forces in place to battle the blazes than last year.

The budget for the whole country is 16 billion rubles or about 583-million dollars… but the number of applications for disaster management has tripled.

Environmentalists say that forest protection after the introduction of the Forest Code in 2006, has decreased by almost six times.

But some environmentalists believe that this year the country is even less prepared than last year.

[Aleksei Yaroshenko, Greenpeace Forest Program in Russia]:

“Now we have no national forest guard. It has not existed for a few years. Now after last year, it has been restored. So some people working in forestry have the responsibility of protecting forests in addition to their other duties.”

The situation is not good because the forest sector is unable to earn money and it’s not adequately covered by the budget.

[Aleksei Yaroshenko, Greenpeace Forest Program in Russia]:

“Even with increased funding, which occurred in the last year, it is still a shortfall for those forestry organizations that are responsible for fighting fires.”

Ownerless forests and forest plantations are facing an even more dangerous situation.

[Aleksei Yaroshenko, Head, Greenpeace Forest Program in Russia]:

“Now if they begin to burn, the authorities, mainly at the regional level, are beginning to argue with each other – who is responsible and for what? In the end a forest, most often, burned before a decision was agreed upon.”

In order to avoid new fires, environmentalists are urging people not to ignite dry grass.

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