#20 - JRL 7210
Pollution Said To Pose Heightened Health Risk on 15% of Russian Territory
3 June 2003
[Presenter] Nature is a health hazard on 15 per cent of the Russian territory inhabited by people. This information comes from a report prepared for the next meeting of the Presidium of the State Council dedicated to the country's environmental problems that will be held tomorrow [4 June].
Experts say that one of the reasons for deterioration of environment is the lack of state control. Russia is the only developed country where enterprises do not pay for pollution. Correspondent Yekaterina Nekrasova gives more details.
[Correspondent] After some period of stability in the 1990s the volume of industrial discharge into the air, soil and rivers is on the increase again in this country.
Environmentalists say that concentration of harmful substances in the air is above the accepted level in more than 200 Russian cities. Worst of all the situation is in Yekaterinburg, Krasnoyarsk and Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. It has been admitted that soil contamination has reached an extremely dangerous level in Norilsk, a dangerous level in St Petersburg and a moderately dangerous level in Moscow. Half of the drinking water sources do not meet health requirements. Only 11 per cent of the effluent is being treated according to required standards.
Environmentalists have admitted that it is already too difficult and sometimes even impossible to restore normal environmental conditions in some parts of Russia.
The enterprises reimburse the state only 0.1 per cent of the damage inflicted on nature.
Deputy chairman of Russian State Duma's committee for environmental protection Aleksandr Kosarikov has said that the problem is in the laws which do not provide for financial responsibility.
Eighteen months ago obligatory payments for contamination of the environment has been cancelled. Russia is the only developed country where the principle - those who pollute should pay - does not work. The State Council's Presidium is likely to decide to work out a draft bill on obligatory payment. At the same time not all those who work in industry believe that a special law will do any good. Vladimir Titov, the chief engineer of a metallurgical plant in Tula, doubts that the money his plant would pay to the state will be spent on environmental pprotection.
Within the last two years the number of environmental inspectors has halved.
An amusing fact: on average in Russia every inspector is in charge of more than 1,000 sq. km of inhabited land.
Most of the inspectors, Kosarikov among them, have agreed that the situation has been aggravated by an unsuccessful reform implemented three years ago, when control functions were transferred from the State Committee for Environmental Protection to the Ministry of Natural Resources.