First Fires Lead To Smog
Published: May 11, 2011 (Issue # 1655)
MOSCOW Ś As warm May weather revives memories ofáthe smog that caused theácapital toáchoke foráweeks last summer, theáEmergency Situations Ministry has offered assurances that it has control over theásource ofáthe air pollution Ś burning peat bogs andáforests ináthe Moscow region.
Yevgeny Sekirin, head ofáthe ministryĺs branch ináthe region, acknowledged that bogs andáforests have started smoldering outside Moscow but said theátotal affected area is relatively small.
Sekirin, speaking onáEkho Moskvy radio onáFriday, said 18 forest fires covering 21 hectares andáfive peat bogs oná1.3 hectares are burning ináthe Moscow region. Ináaddition, he said, 2,500 grass fires occupying anáarea ofáabout 32 hectares have been put out since theástart ofáthe year.
No casualties were reported.
Greenpeace Russia has accused theáministry ofádownplaying theáissue byátweaking theáwildfire statistics. Theáwatchdog did not provide its own statistics but said onáits web site Thursday that there were ôseveral dozen firesö ináthe Sergiyevo-Posadsky district ofáthe Moscow region that firefighters were ignoring.
The ministry has accused Greenpeace ofámisreporting wildfires, but theágroup denied theáaccusations, saying Thursday that its volunteers were busy fighting fires ináan area that theáministry declared smoke-free. Theáclaims could not be immediately reconciled.
Last summer, some 1,000 peat bog fires broke out over 1,500 hectares ofáthe Moscow region, Moscow region Deputy Governor Nikolai Pishchev told Rossiiskaya Gazeta inálate April. Nationwide, theátotal area engulfed byáwildfires reached 200,000 hectares last summer.
Carelessness was toáblame forámost ofáthe fires, Sekirin said. He did not elaborate. But he told Prime-Tass last year that only 10 percent ofápeat bog fires are due toánatural causes, as opposed toácarelessly discarded cigarette butts or theámishandling ofáfire byápeople onácamping trips.
Peat bogs occupy 254,000 hectares ináthe Moscow region, Pishchev said. About 65,000 hectares ofáthose, mostly ináthe eastern andásouthern parts ofáthe region, need toábe flooded toáprevent fires.
About 22,000 hectares will be flooded this year, with theárest toáfollow byá2013, Pishchev said, adding that theáflooding program would cost aátotal ofá3.7 billion rubles ($133 million).
Funding forápreventing andácombating wildfires ináthe Moscow region stands this year atá636 million rubles ($23 million), ôhundreds ofátimesö more than iná2010, Pishchev told Interfax onáFriday.