Forest fires 2010: A miser pays twice

Feature story - 10 August, 2010
Greenpeace calculates those means the country will spend to fight the forest fires and deal with their consequences, would be enough to finance several-year work of a state forest protection body of 20 000 employees.

Forest fires

The insignificant sum of 2.2 billion rubles was allocated this year for the fire fighting. To compare: in 2009 Russia spent from 4 to 10 cents per hectare of forest lands on fire fighting services, compared with about $4 in the US. Greenpeace estimates that Russia needs no less than 30 billion rubles to combat the forest fires nationwide. It means the main thing the state should do now is to raise additional means including financial ones because the funds that were allocated to the regions have run short long time ago.

«It's impossible to change the situation with the fires this year, - considers Alexey Yaroshenko, the head of Greenpeace Russia's Forest Program. - But it's possible to prevent the catastrophe in the future. The problem can be solved if the government establishes a centralized system of forest protection employing no less than 20000 people as well as the centralized system of aviation forest air protection. If not to do it right now the fire catastrophe in the Russian forests will repeat in the nearest hot and dry year».

According to Greenpeace the staff of the state forest protection body should include not less than 20 000 people and its only duty should include the forests protection. The forest protection service must not turn into another bureaucratic organization with the flourishing top-management and poverty-stricken foresters. To this effect the forest protection service should get enough financing from the federal budget that its employees can fulfill their duties instead of thinking where and how to earn a living. To assure the activity of such a forest protection service approximately 20 billion rubles per year (additionally to those means that are allocated for the forestry management) are necessary.

Also it's essential to establish the centralized system of air forest protection for combating the large-scale forest fires (analogue of the former "Avialesookhrana") particularly to assure the quick transportation of firefighters and equipment from the regions of less fire intensity to the regions of larger fire intensity.

«A miser pays twice. If in Russia there were a capable and effective state forest protection service it would be possible to reduce the damage from the fire catastrophe in 2010 by 5-10 times and avoid the human losses. Those money that are to be spend to deal with this year forest fire consequences would be enough to finance several-year work of a state forest protection body of 20 000 employees", - states Yaroshenko.

Information for editor

1) «Situation with the forest fires in Russia», Greenpeace report, May 2010.

2) Greenpeace Russia letter concerning the situation with forest fires to Mr. A. Dvorkovich, Economic Presidential Adviser.

"The climate change that caused a terrible heatwave and drought in Russia is important but not the only reason for the devastating wildfires in the Central Russia regions. 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 stage. Instead of 70000 forest guards Russia now has around 12000 forest bureaucrats who mainly do the paperwork.

Greenpeace estimates that the losses caused by the wildfires could have been cut by 5-10 times if the state hadn't abolished the forest guards.

The annual forest fire budget of around 2,2 billions rubles is already gone as it is barely nothing to deal with hundreds of devastating forest and peat bog fires. Russia currently spends about 4 cents per hectare of forest lands on fire fighting services, compared with about $4 in the US.

This means that government must now accumulate additional finances and agree on the further steps to prevent the devastating forest fires in the future.

The problem can be solved if the government establishes a centralized system of forest protection employing no less than 20000 people, Greenpeace believes".

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