Rain could be Moscow’s last defense against the smog

Rain could be Moscow’s last defense against the smog

05 July 2011

published by http://themoscownews.com

Russia –Last week’s heat brought with it worries about the repeat of summer of 2010, when smoke from peat bogs enveloped Moscow.

While forest watchdog Rosleskhoz claimed all but five fires in Moscow Region had been extinguished there were reports of more smouldering peat bogs.

And fire-fighting volunteers said it could be down to the weather to determine whether there was a repeat of last year’s smog in the capital.

Word from the fire zone

Alexander Babayev lives in Orekhovo-Zuevo, in the east of Moscow Region. Last year he helped coordinate volunteer fire-fighting efforts in the forests around his home.

And while in 2011 he is confident that forest fires are thin on the ground, he warned of the danger posed by peat bogs.

“The peat bogs are already burning, there is a strong smell, and noticeable smoke,” Babayev told the Moscow News.

“There are no forest fires, they smell differently. But, it has been raining, maybe if it rains more, we will not have a repeat of last summer,” Babayev said.

He added that last year’s volunteers were still in close contact, and were ready to step in again if the emergency services needed them.

On Tuesday afternoon drizzle in central Moscow offered some hope that the weather might spare the city, but earlier this week there were reports of increased levels of smoke particles in the atmosphere of Eastern Moscow.

Ecologists cry foul

Meanwhile, Greenpeace Russia announced that about 20 peat bogs are on fire in the European part of the country. Shatura of Moscow region and Gus-Khrustalny in Vladimir region are the most affected areas, said Alexei Yaroshenko head of Greenpeace forest programme.

Eye-witnesses say there is a lot of smoke in the town, but Emercom, the emergency services minstry, has denied this.

Grigory Kuksin, head of Greenpeace’s anti-fire project claims it is too late to stop the fires completely and warned that good work on the ground was being undone by poor management.

“Now the situation in the area is very bad,” he told Kommersant. “There are no means to extinguish, or even to localise the fires. There is also not enough equipment. There is a lot of smoke in Shatura now.”

“Emercom is working well with volunteers on the spot, but they fight a battle in the information field. They do not want to admit the failure of the fire preparation, and give false information,” Kuksin said.

Last summer’s lessons

After the fires in the summer of 2010 the authorities spent heavily on preventing a repeat this year. In 2010 300 million rubles ($11 million) was spent on watering the Moscow region peat bogs, and at the end of May 2011 further 1.1 billion rubles($39.5 million) was allocated.

Moscow region governor Boris Gromov allocated 500 million rubles ($18 million) on fire fighting equipment.

But there were concerns that the fire-fighting project had fallen behind schedule with Gromov saying the work would be complete only at the end of July.

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