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$46 million goes up in smoke in Siberia and Russia Far East - prosecutor-general

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11 August 2016


'Almost a million hectares of commercial timber was again destroyed in the first half of the year alone.' Picture: Aviarosleskhoz

The prosecutor-general warned of a huge cost to the economy but also the environment as he spoke in Ulan-Ude, capital of the Republic of Buryatia, a Siberian region badly hit by wildfires. 

'Almost a million hectares of commercial timber was again destroyed in the first half of the year alone and from the economic viewpoint the budget fell short of 3 billion rubles,' he said. 

'Moreover, people died in the fire-fighting effort and huge damage was done to the environment. It will take many years for nature to recover.'

The 'storeroom of natural resources' in the forests of the Urals, Siberia and Russian Far East demanded better protection. But he attacked both government ministries and regional administration for a failure to safeguard these 'natural riches'.

Yuri Chaika

Huge damage wrought by forest fires is sparked by failure to apply safety laws, complained Yuri Chaika. Picture: Sputnik

'The regulation of legal relations in the sphere of environmental protection is not exercised properly,' he said. 'In particular, the Natural Resources Ministry has failed to adopt more than 40 relevant regulatory acts and methodologies to date.'

The Natural Resources Ministry has also failed to fully ensure coordination and control over the work of its subordinate Federal Agency for Forestry and Water Resources as well as the  Federal Service for Supervision of Nature Management, he went on.

In comments that will be welcomed by environmental campaigners he said many regions are facing acute problems disposing of domestic waste and tackling air pollution. 

He voiced special concern by the anthropogenic impact on Lake Baikal, the world's largest freshwater body, which affects its flora and fauna and the quality of water.

Wildfires seen from space

Big wildfire near the lake Baikal spotted from the space by cosmonaut Yury Skripochka. Picture: Roscosmos

Forest protection controlling authorities are also falling short of their targets as they are failing to timely counter violations of the rules of timber procurement and sanitary safety, the prosecutor-general said according to TASS.

His critique follows the Minister of Natural Resources Sergey Donskoy this week laying blame for the extent of summer wildfires squarely at the door of local authorities. 

It is commonly said that many fires are caused by people's negligence in lighting fires or throwing away cigarettes on parched ground. 'The human factor is not the only root cause of the wildfires in Russia as it is widely believed,' he said. 

'The administrative factor, or the quality of work of administrative bodies, is also important. It is just wrong to blame the lack of responsible safety measures on fire or weather conditions from year to year.'

Il-76 plane crashed

Il-76 plane crashed

10 emergency workers lost in air crash in early July, while fighting with wildfires in Irkutsk region. Pictures: EMERCOM

Donskoy noted that regions which had prepared for the fire-hazard season under the guidance of Russia's Federal Forestry Agency, had experienced fewer wildfires.

'Areas engulfed by fires clearly indicate where work has been properly organised, and where work has not been done. Tiny localised fires grow into huge natural disasters. The direct cause-and-effect relationship is obvious: you get what you give.'

On last week there were reports that the areas hit by wildfires has almost four times from 29,400 to 7,600 hectares. The data was from the Russian Aerial Forest Protection Service.

In Magadan region - in the extreme east of Russia - there had been a reduction in a massive fire covering 21,600 hectares. Now only 755 hectares were ablaze.

But ecological groups allege that there is vast underreporting of fires by officialdom. They allege that the true destruction in annual wildfires is many times greater than acknowledged. 

Tiny localised fires grow into huge natural disasters. The direct cause-and-effect relationship is obvious: you get what you give.' Pictures: Anna Baskakova, Oksana Gromyko

Baikal on fire

Baikal on fire

Baikal on fire

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