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First Fires Lead To Smog Jitters

Published: May 11, 2011 (Issue # 1655)


MOSCOW As warm May weather revives memories ofthe smog that caused thecapital tochoke forweeks last summer, theEmergency Situations Ministry has offered assurances that it has control over thesource ofthe air pollution burning peat bogs andforests inthe Moscow region.

Yevgeny Sekirin, head ofthe ministrys branch inthe region, acknowledged that bogs andforests have started smoldering outside Moscow but said thetotal affected area is relatively small.

Sekirin, speaking onEkho Moskvy radio onFriday, said 18 forest fires covering 21 hectares andfive peat bogs on1.3 hectares are burning inthe Moscow region. Inaddition, he said, 2,500 grass fires occupying anarea ofabout 32 hectares have been put out since thestart ofthe year.

No casualties were reported.

Greenpeace Russia has accused theministry ofdownplaying theissue bytweaking thewildfire statistics. Thewatchdog did not provide its own statistics but said onits web site Thursday that there were several dozen fires inthe Sergiyevo-Posadsky district ofthe Moscow region that firefighters were ignoring.

The ministry has accused Greenpeace ofmisreporting wildfires, but thegroup denied theaccusations, saying Thursday that its volunteers were busy fighting fires inan area that theministry declared smoke-free. Theclaims could not be immediately reconciled.

Last summer, some 1,000 peat bog fires broke out over 1,500 hectares ofthe Moscow region, Moscow region Deputy Governor Nikolai Pishchev told Rossiiskaya Gazeta inlate April. Nationwide, thetotal area engulfed bywildfires reached 200,000 hectares last summer.

Carelessness was toblame formost ofthe fires, Sekirin said. He did not elaborate. But he told Prime-Tass last year that only 10 percent ofpeat bog fires are due tonatural causes, as opposed tocarelessly discarded cigarette butts or themishandling offire bypeople oncamping trips.

Peat bogs occupy 254,000 hectares inthe Moscow region, Pishchev said. About 65,000 hectares ofthose, mostly inthe eastern andsouthern parts ofthe region, need tobe flooded toprevent fires.

About 22,000 hectares will be flooded this year, with therest tofollow by2013, Pishchev said, adding that theflooding program would cost atotal of3.7 billion rubles ($133 million).

Funding forpreventing andcombating wildfires inthe Moscow region stands this year at636 million rubles ($23 million), hundreds oftimes more than in2010, Pishchev told Interfax onFriday.





 


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Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianitys holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.