Moscow, Russia – Major Russian cities are shrouded in haze as a mega fires continue to burn through Siberian Taiga forests, in what is becoming an annual occurrence. It’s another year that Russian authorities have failed to stop these fires risking local communities and contributing to climate change.
Greenpeace Russia Wildfire Unit Head Grigory Kuksin said:
“Russia’s sprawling Siberia region became a climate hotspot, heating up much faster than the rest of the planet. This summer has already brought extreme heat waves, oil spills caused by thawing permafrost, and raging forest fires – what next before we finally act on climate?”
“Russian authorities must work fast to stop cities being filled with toxic smoke haze. It’s to stop economic cutbacks on forest protection and support national forestry to protect our health and our climate.”
According to satellite monitoring data, the total area burnt by wildland fires in Russia since the beginning of 2020 has reached 19 million hectares – bigger than the area of Greece. Approximately 10 million hectares of these territories suffered forest fires.
The majority of fires are happening in the remote areas of Far Eastern Russia and Eastern Siberia, but the effects are spreading. Last week harmful smoke from wildfires covered Siberian cities: Yakutsk (Yakutia), Ugorsk and Sovetsky (Khanty-Mansiysky District) and many other smaller towns and villages affecting air quality, raising concerns for exacerbated respiratory distress during the COVID-19 pandemic. There is evidence that air pollution, like from a wildfire, can impact the body’s ability to defend against respiratory viruses, and worsen the symptoms of infected people.
According to Greenpeace Russia campaigners, while some of these forest fires were caused by lightning, others were started on the river banks – most likely as a consequence of campfires. Another common cause of Siberian and Far Eastern wildfires are large scale prescribed burnings that get out of hand and the legal requirement imposed on logging companies to destroy logging leftovers.
Alexey Yaroshenko, Forest expert, Greenpeace Russia, [email protected] +7 903 129 46 37
Tatiana Vasilieva, communication specialist, Greenpeace Russia, [email protected], +357 96 179166
Greenpeace International Press Desk: [email protected], +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)