Environmentalists in Russia Paint a Dirty Picture

By Irina Sandul, The Russia Journal, reprinted in Northstar Compass, October 2002

Traffic policemen at Moscow's intersections face the same risk now of dying of oncologicall diseases as rescue workers did at the Chernobyl during the first few days in 1986, experts from Russia's Green Party say.

Now, every year in Russia, automobiles emit 750,000 tons of carbon monoxide, a substance that causes cancer, Vladimir Yevstafyev, co-chairman of the Green Party, told journalists. The Russian Health Ministry attributes the growth of cardiovascular diseases to the country's worsening environment. As a result of this, the average life span of Russians went down to 54–55.5 years in the last decade (is that not due to the market economy, Mr. Yevstafyev? Editor), the State Statistics Committee reported.

Data shows that by year 2016, Russian population will decrease to 134.5 million people. Russia's population before Perestroika was over 150 million people in 1989, that was when the last census was taken. The number has dropped inside these 10–11 years to 144 million.

Demographers report that the gap between the life-span in Russia and the Western countries, which was very small close to 30 years ago, has now reached 15-19 years for men and 7 to 11 years for women, bringing Russia's health indexes well below those of Egypt and Brazil.

Despite an annual increase of immigrants by 0.7 per cent, Russia's population decreases by 0.2 per cent each year. The Health Ministry had to admit that 65.6 per cent of children in the country have health abnormalities. Annually, some 900,000 children in Russia die by the age of five years of age.

Almost a quarter of the negative influence on people's health is the result of environmental pollution, the experts say.

Some commentators accuse the present Russian government of contributing to destroying the ecological protection system. Two years ago, the State Committee for Environmental Protection was abolished by the Putin government, and just last year, a final decision was made to allow the import of nuclear waste to be dumped unto Russian soil, from the capitalist countries for processing and storage!?

For reasons that defy description, the present Russian government is transferring from gas to coal thermo-electric power stations, which could bring deadly results. According to research conducted the EDF last February in Veliky Novgorod, 30 more people will die annually in that city alone, which has a population of 240,000, as the result of converting its power stations to coal, a process which is promoted and demanded by the European Commission.

Many inhabitants would be exposed to diseases of the higher and lower respiratory tracts. Of course, the Moscow Office of this European Commission was not available for comment.

If the present Russian government goes along this path, (as it is bent on doing) of increasing its share of coal for energy, by 2010-2012 the death rate will grow by 30,000–40,000 people a year!