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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.





 

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meeting tonight at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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