#19 - JRL 7210
Putin chairs meeting to consider Russian ecology doctrine, fines for polluters
Source: Radio Mayak, Moscow, in Russian 1100 gmt 4 Jun 03
[Presenter] It cannot be ruled out that fines will soon be brought in for polluting the environment.
President Vladimir Putin is chairing a meeting of the State Council Presidium in the Kremlin today on improving the ecological situation in Russia. The meeting will be considering an ecological doctrine.
Those taking part in the meeting believe that environmental pollution still goes virtually unpunished in Russia today.
Ahead of the meeting, those taking part held a briefing. Here are details from our correspondent Yekaterina Nekrasova:
[Correspondent] This is the first time in 10 years that ecological problems have been considered at such a high, presidential, level. This was noted by all the members of the working group of the State Council Presidium - academics, representatives of ministries and regional authorities and industrialists who have spent 10 months collecting material for today's meeting. There are specific reasons for this level of attention.
Since 1999, environmental pollution has again mounted in Russia. More than 200 towns in Russia have excessive levels of harmful substances in the air and in the lead here are Moscow, St Petersburg and Krasnoyarsk. The dirtiest rivers are the Volga, Dnepr and Oka, not to mention the small waterways.
The culprits here are not only the enterprises which fail to clean up their industrial waste, but first and foremost obsolete public sewage systems, which account for 60 per cent of all waste water.
Soil condition is also giving cause for concern. According to Russian Academy of Sciences Vice President Nikolay Laverov, there is now a very acute problem concerning the scrapping of the nuclear submarine fleet.
[Laverov] We have now taken 191 nuclear submarines out of commission. The consequent rehabilitation of their locations and the breaking-up of these submarines in the areas around the shipyards are an immensely complex business. We now have approximately 581 sq km of territory contaminated with radio-nuclides in the country. However, we have cleaned up just 0.5 sq km over five years. To give you an idea of what kind of costs we are talking about here, I am working on the Kola Peninsula, let's take that. It would cost 1.5-2bn dollars to clean up the territory of the Kola Peninsula.
[Correspondent] However, the budget allocates just R50m per annum for the clean-up of all polluted areas, and just 4 per cent of GDP to be spent on ecology. Inadequate funding is one of the main causes of the dire ecological straits, as the chairman of the working group and governor of Astrakhan Region, Anatoliy Guzhvin, says, but far from the only one.
[Guzhvin] Unfortunately, we now have a situation in which the law is in effect not functioning. The draft law which has been drawn up now has to be put to the State Duma. There has to be one principle: The polluter pays. How? We have several options here, we have put forward two options. But the choice is not up to us. It is an administrative problem and the administrative problem is, in our view, that resources and regulation have to be separated as a matter of principle. But how to achieve this is another question to be discussed.
[Correspondent] To be precise, there are already specific proposals to separate exploitation and conservation of the natural environment. A proposal will be put to the president today to bring in another reform of the Ministry of Natural Resources and to remove the inspectorate from it, to prevent this department regulating itself.
This proposal is actually one of the main puzzles of today's meeting, since the speakers include the minister for natural resources, Vitaliy Artyukhov. He is categorically against this proposal, believing the reform to be ineffective. [Passage omitted: Artyukhov says the services required to act exist now within the ministry.]
As for a law making the polluter pay for environmental damage, Vitaliy Artyukhov says we do of course need this, but it is no panacea. Paying a fine is no guarantee that the environment will be restored. The minister believes it would be very much better to bring in a system of making the enterprise purchase the clean-up equipment itself and then account for the purchase to its auditors.
The big idea to be presented to the members of the presidium is that Russia is unique in its natural riches: 65 per cent of it is untouched territory. We have to conserve these riches and try to restore that part of nature which has already been destroyed. It is now up to the president to decide if the plans put forward today come to fruition.