Last Saturday President Dmitry Medvedev addressed law students in his home city of St Petersburg on the environmental problems which pose a threat to the future health of Russian citizens and their economy.
Over the next three decades, to prevent the country from becoming inhabitable after years of Soviet and post-Soviet environmental mismanagement and economic crises, Russia may require foreign aid, persistent international pressure, management expertise and foreign investment. Even then, major progress could still be decades away.
Medvedev spoke of how Russians had been more focused on survival in the 1990s than on the environment and how, ‘As a result, there are now many places in Russia on the brink of an adverse ecological situation … If we fail to deal with the ecological situation now, then in 10, 20, 30 years, large parts of Russia will be unfit for living’.
Among Russia’s most pressing environmental problems are: water pollution, with less than half of Russia’s population having access to safe drinking water; air quality, with several cities exceeding Russian pollution limits; hazardous waste disposal, with Russian authorities lacking management the expertise and landfill capacity to manage the situation. Not to mention the pressing issues of nuclear waste and chemical munitions contamination.
Earlier this month, Medvedev organized an ad hoc meeting of top government officials to discuss clean and efficient energy use.