Posted 12 августа 2021,, 17:16

Published 12 августа 2021,, 17:16

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:37

No money, no people, no technology: our forests are burned down not only because of the weather

No money, no people, no technology: our forests are burned down not only because of the weather

12 августа 2021, 17:16
Russia, according to Greenpeace, came out on top in the world in terms of the area of forest fires. Our forests are on fire, but the news about the fight against fire is more and more often about how our aviation is putting out forest fires in Greece.

And the main striking force in Russia is the volunteers with buckets.

Victoria Pavlova

Siberia has surpassed Greece, Turkey, Italy, the USA and Canada combined in terms of the scale of the fire catastrophe. But the forests were still burning and often continue to burn in Karelia, Bashkiria, Chelyabinsk Region, Krasnoyarsk Territory, Chukotka and other Russian regions. But no rush to put out fires and a significant improvement in the situation, especially in Yakutia, is not visible. Forests burned, burn and continue to burn — more and more every year. Novye Izvestia tried to find out what was happening and why it was not possible to cope with the fire.

The salvation of those who are burning is the work of those who burn themselves

Eyewitnesses, members of the volunteer organization «The Society of Voluntary Forest Firefighters», who were directly involved in extinguishing the fire in one of the hearths — on the island of Putsaari, where one of the hermitages of the Valaam Monastery is located, say that in the immediate vicinity of the hermitage, water was even dumped from a helicopter, and a little aside, the volunteers had to act on their own:

— The burning forest to the west of the hermitage is almost exclusively extinguished by us. And it is very difficult, because the relief of the Putsaari island is high (about 80 meters) hills and hollows between them, often overgrown with coniferous and deciduous low forests. Along one of these hollows, a piece of a riding fire was brought to us, we had to abandon the laid hose line and the motor pump, they burned out.

«Novye Izvestia» also managed to contact volunteer Mikhail (name changed at the request of a source to preserve anonymity — Ed .), Who was protecting the Karelian village of Naistenjärvi from fire. He notes that a significant contribution to extinguishing fires was made not by the authorities, formally participating in the organization and coordination of work, but by ordinary people.

— In the end, there were enough people and equipment, but here it also did not go without the help of those who were not indifferent: for example, 500 m of fire hoses were purchased and handed over to the firefighters when everything was on fire. In Petrozavodsk and other cities, volunteers organized special points where people could bring food and other essentials, which were then handed over to those who extinguish and suffered from fires. Where is the job of the authorities in all this? The actions of the authorities, it seems to me, were more ostentatious. Personal presence in those settlements, which approached the fire, calls on the speakerphone to the camera of the head of the republic Artur Parfenchikov — as a volunteer, I did not see any effect. More effective and timely measures would save tens or even hundreds of hectares of forest.

In Yakutia, settlements and forests are protected from fire by members of the Volunteer Headquarters for Fighting Forest Fires — more than 600 people work. Moreover, the necessary basic equipment in the form of tarpaulin boots, axes and hand sprayers, food for volunteers, medicines are provided by local residents also on a voluntary basis. Regional authorities promise only to pay for the work of volunteers, but when this will be done is not known.

It is not supposed to extinguish

But what about the Ministry of Emergency Situations, which includes fire departments? It turns out that forest fires are not their problem. Volunteer Mikhail personally encountered this problem.

— I only learned directly at the fire that the Ministry of Emergency Situations does not extinguish forest fires if there is no threat to settlements. Well, it burns and burns, so when they come to the houses, then they will come.

But this does not mean that the employees of the Ministry of Emergency Situations beat their thumbs and observe the fire with idle curiosity. In Karelia, the «emchees» people extinguished fires for days without rest. There are simply not enough people. Since the Ministry of Emergency Situations does not have a formal duty to extinguish fires, it means that there is no need for a large staff. And there are not so many people willing to go to such work — in Yakutia, the salary of firefighters who risk their lives and health is about 30 thousand rubles and only slightly more in the summer fire-hazardous period. The problem is well known, but the authorities are in no hurry to solve it. So, the head of Yakutia, Aisen Avakov, recently proposed to legalize processing for firefighters instead of increasing the number of people, although the ban on working more than 8 hours for firefighters was set for a reason — overwork increases the risks of forever remaining in a burning hell.

And if in Karelia, which is located very close to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and which became an important tourist center after the borders were closed in a pandemic, the situation with technology and equipment is relatively good, then in the distant Yakutia, which accounts for 87% of forest fires in Russia, everything is different. In the Gorny Ulus of Yakutia, they are forced to cope with improvised means, having neither radios to coordinate the work, nor GPS navigators to get to the fire site. Such spontaneous blind activity cannot be compared in efficiency to well-equipped professionals who are well-equipped professionals.

Did the authorities forget to allocate money? Not at all — billions of rubles are regularly allocated to update fire-fighting equipment and equipment. So, according to the Accounting Chamber, for the period from the beginning of 2019 to October 2020, 9.226 billion rubles were allocated from the federal budget for these purposes. And they were distributed among the federal districts. However, the amount of subsidies does not differ much, and the area of forests is drastically different. As a result, it turns out that the North Caucasian Federal District received 89 times more money per hectare of forest than the Far Eastern Federal District — 310.6 rubles against 3.5 rubles.

And the purchased equipment, alas, is not long-range firefighting aircraft. In the Far East, only 5.7% of forests can use this technique. And on average in Russia, only 16.6% of the forest fund can be extinguished with new equipment.

At the same time, the regions, as revealed by the Accounts Chamber, complain that the standards for the provision of equipment do not meet their needs — in Yakutia, the Trans-Baikal and Krasnoyarsk Territories, there are not enough mobile forest patrol complexes, motor boats, tankers and all-terrain vehicles. And in the Kaluga region and the Khabarovsk Territory there is an excess of tractors, truck tractors and plows. Echoes of a planned economy, when the regions have to buy what they should, and not what they need. And at such a pace, it will take a very long time to provide the regions with technology: the needs are many billion rubles, and since 2007, purchases have been carried out only 3 times.

Accounts Chamber infographics

Silence tactics

Everything again rests on the fact that in Russia the government believes that it makes sense to extinguish fires only where people live. And everything else is «economically unprofitable». Therefore, the regions west of the Urals receive much more funding. The same applies to payment for the work of a subdivision of the Federal Forestry Agency (Rosleskhoz) — Avialesokhrana. If in the central part of Russia the department receives 24 rubles per hectare of controlled forest, then in Yakutia — 6 rubles.

Moscow is far from the blazing taiga, all the problems from the mansion on Pyatnitskaya Street (where Rosleskhoz is located) cannot be understood, but in the regions the authorities are also not distinguished by their zeal. Back in early June in Yakutia, when forestry had not yet turned into a global catastrophe, the uluses (municipalities) were instructed to fight the fire, whose budgets for environmental protection were in the range of 20-30 thousand rubles. The emergency mode, which opens up new funding opportunities, was introduced at the regional level in Yakutia only on August 8. As if there was no problem, she was diligently hushed up. Only on August 9, the problem rose to the level of Vladimir Putin, who instructed to allocate additional funds until September and assess the need to involve the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the forces of the Ministry of Defense. The Greeks did not hesitate and asked for help on time, and the authorities of Yakutia were dragging their feet to the last.

The system was destroyed, but a new one was not created

Many problems could be avoided if fires were discovered in their infancy. But the reform of the Forest Code, carried out in 2006, turned out to be cleaner than the optimization of the healthcare system. The forestry was closed, the forest guards were fired, and the forests were leased to companies that do not bear any responsibility. The forest now has no owner to watch over it. In Sweden, by the way, 50% of the forest is privately owned, and the owners are directly interested in preserving their own assets. In Canada, only 6% of the forest is owned by private owners. But the rest is strictly divided by state structures. There is no ownerless forest there.

The Ministry of Natural Resources has calculations according to which the number of forest guards should be increased by 18 thousand people, that is, approximately 2 times. But still, the expanded staff will be three times lagging behind the 2005 headcount. The issue of financing also remains open — according to preliminary calculations, an additional 9.6 billion rubles will be required. And this is only the beginning of the restoration of the forest protection system. According to Greenpeace, the regions need annual funding at the level of 100 billion rubles. Now they receive only about 30 billion. The answer to the request of Novye Izvestia about how the department is dealing with this problem (it has been known for a long time — the Accounts Chamber focused on it back in 2016) and whether there was any benefit from the reform at the time Publications from Rosleskhoz could not be obtained. If it does follow, we will definitely publish it.

And while there is neither money nor people, the authorities justify themselves by the fact that Rosleskhoz does not serve all the forests. This means that there is no one to extinguish the fires. So, last year, with a total area of fires of 9.1 million hectares, only 1.76 million hectares burned in the Rosleskhoz service area. Avialesokhrana is connected when the fire comes to the served areas, the Ministry of Emergency Situations — when the fire comes directly to the houses, and the authorities of Yakutia — when the disaster begins to attract international attention (not without the participation of Hollywood stars). Meanwhile, the «no-man’s» fire continues to destroy hay stocks, pastures and permafrost, which greatly increases the emission of greenhouse gases, which raise the Earth’s temperature even more. The result of inaction is that people are suffocating and homeless, there is not enough food for livestock, the climate is deteriorating, and the likelihood of fires in the future only increases.