The climate change that caused a terrible heat wave and drought in Russia is important but not the only reason for the devastating wildfires in the Central Russia regions.
If nothing changes and if the weather is as hot as it is now the next year the devastating forest fires will hit Russia again
The Forest Code signed off by Mr Putin in 2007 has abolished the
centralized woodland-fire control system that used to give the
alert when fires broke out and helped to fight them at an early
Till 2007 there was a centralized body responsible for forest
protection (Goslesohrana). Its staff consisted of about 70 thousand
foresters who patrolled their forest territories on a regular basis
and fought the fire at an early stage. However after adoption of
the new Forest code the Goslesohrana was abolished and its
functions were distributed between regional authorities and private
leaseholders. Instead of 70000 forest guards Russia now has around
12000 forest bureaucrats who mainly do the paperwork.
The Emergency Situations Ministry (MES) is not responsible for
forest fire fighting unless the fire threatens the settlements and
therefore is not experienced in battling the forest and peat bog
fires. The machinery and equipment MES obtains very often can not
be used for forest fire fighting activities. For example this kind
of equipment can not pass unpaved forest roads or can not assure
water extraction from shallow and partly dried water sources.
Eventually 80% of all people involved in forest fires fighting are
forest workers whose powers and possibilities are nearly
Many foresters are now working out of a mere enthusiasm - in the
budget only 2,2 billion rubles are allocated for fire fighting.
With the scale of forest fires we are now facing this budget will
be sufficient only for two days. But if there is no money there is
no modern equipment.
There is no reason to rely on leaseholders: under the law they
are obliged to assure fire fighting but not to fight the fire. Fire
fighting is within the duties of those regional bodies that won the
tender for fire-extinguishing activities. But many regions simply
don't have such organizations. They do not have representatives of
forest services as well: where the major forest areas are leased,
the forest services and former forestry stations are rather small
since it is expected that main forestry activities should be done
by leaseholders. As consequence when it is necessary to attract
professionals for fighting with forest fires it turns out that
there is nobody to attract.
So, what should be done?
First of all the authorities should honestly admit that the
heatwave is not the only one to blame for the situation we are
facing now. The problem can be solved if the government establishes
a centralized system of forest protection employing no less than
20000 people, Greenpeace believes.
If nothing changes and if the weather is as hot as it is now the
next year the devastating forest fires will hit Russia again.
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