Yelena Ivanova, Natalia Seibil
Along with the fight against poverty and the increase in GDP, the Russian authorities tried to describe the program for improving the lives of Russians not only in the usual terms of built square meters of housing and long kilometers of roads, but also with the help of the so far little-known and not very clear for the Russian ear, the "urban environment quality index"...
Favorable urban environment
Since 2019, the Ministry of Construction has been using a new methodology. 36 indicators measure not only landscaping and the presence of duty benches, but also the availability of sports infrastructure, road safety, the development of the service sector, the state of the housing stock, and the provision of communal infrastructure.
- This is a transition to such indicators as satisfaction of the population, provision of social infrastructure, the ability to access cultural heritage sites. That is, these are much more serious things, and it was a normal step, - says Vitaly Stadnikov, associate professor of the A.A. Higher School of Urban Studies. Vysokovsky National Research University Higher School of Economics. - I am an advisor to the governor of the Samara region. When I try to convince the governor that there is a need to look not only at the volume of housing commissioned, but also at the quality, improvement, provision of social facilities and even the preservation of heritage, the environmental quality index is a potential indicator of the governors' performance, which has not yet been included in their KPIs (key performance indicators - "NO"), but which will be explicitly included, and which is worth relying on when moving from cost accounting to quality.
The government's attempt to assess the quality of life of the urban population is understandable, since two-thirds of Russians live in cities. Finally, it dawned on the authorities that it was not only the size of the kitchen that affected people's good mood. In 2019, the authorities analyzed 1,114 Russian cities. Every fourth city turned out to be "favorable", which scored 164 points or more. Now the Ministry of Construction will carry out the instructions of the president.
- By 2024, it is necessary to increase the urban environment quality index by 30 percent and halve the number of cities with an unfavorable environment. The quality index gives an understanding of what strengths and weaknesses each city has, and what further steps the authorities need to take to make life in their city comfortable, safe and convenient”, - explains Minister Vladimir Yakushev on the website of the Ministry of Construction.
The professional community has many questions about innovation. He is far from ideal.
- This index is a bureaucratic invention. In my opinion, it can increase at least 10 times, it is not adequate. There are tons of games on how to improve performance. They took and changed the boundaries of the municipality, cut a forest to it - landscaping has increased, - says Maxim Perov, professor at the International Academy of Architecture.
Other urbanists say the index is an attempt to move from quantification to a comprehensive vision.
- Before that, it was square meters per year of housing or population. Based on this, we have had such an extensive contamination of the territory around large cities. It is happening, has happened and will continue to happen, - adds Vitaly Stadnikov.
The regulatory framework has not been brought in line with the new assessment methodology, therefore, even this limited set of measures can be implemented only in cities with an authoritarian system of governance, as experts say and point to Moscow and Kazan. Where there is no authoritarian rule, where local governments are weak or subordinate to corporations, or where leverage is distributed among groups, new approaches are drowned in sabotage. It is necessary to adopt new indicators, SNiPs, SanPiNs and other fire regulations so that the conceptual indicators of a new understanding of the city are reflected in the regulatory framework.
- The social system - schools, kindergartens - they must be "rethought" in their formats, because now they are rudimentary in their ideology. And it is clear that the entire regulatory framework is not able to implement them in the form in which they are spelled out in the regulations.
Meters versus habitat
The new government plan is not only a road to the future, but also a battleground for interests and big money. Until 2024, the construction complex will reach 120 million square meters of housing per year - and will remain at this indicator until 2030.
- These input volumes, which they are trying to shove as target indicators, are a projection of the interests of large landowners and developers, that is, the construction complex and large landowners who bought farmland in the 2000s, or, more precisely, received farmland for a pittance, transferred their land for housing construction and now, by hook or by crook, they want to get into the Housing program, so that all networks can be extended free of charge, and they built economy-class square meters on their land and sold them quickly”, - says Vitaly Stadnikov.
Since the adoption of the Land Code in 2001, land in Russia has become a commodity. Investors wanted all the land that was available. The wife of the former mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Elena Baturina, bought up half of the Belgorod region. Roman Abramovich, Vladimir Yevtushenkov, former mayors and governors bought land in the Moscow region. And although landlords have been able to change land assignments since 2005, the 2008 crisis hit landowners. In the Moscow region alone, at the beginning of 2020, out of 1.5 million hectares of agricultural purpose, 300 thousand are ready for sale . After the outbreak of the pandemic, the situation on the land market remains uncertain. For various reasons, large owners are throwing off land assets, and the number of plots that cannot be sold for years is accumulating. There are many sites with a reassigned assignment in the 30-kilometer zone of Moscow. Owners often demand inflated prices; some lands have encumbrances. Then getting into the government housing program is the best way out of the situation. No lobbying efforts are spared for this.
However, developers and landlords do not want the kind of housing that architects and urbanists are talking about, who do not believe that a favorable environment can be created in multi-storey multi-section microdistrict-type areas, even for cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg. However, 120 million square meters per year do not leave room for architectural fantasy.
- 120 million meters. Who will buy it? Absolutely incomprehensible. It will be built on the outskirts in an open field. These numbers are meaningless and harmful, says Maxim Perov.
What to do with garbage
As the plan shows, the authorities intend to solve the problem of municipal solid waste by 100% in ten years. Less than a third of MSW will be processed this year. After it was announced in May of this year that VEB, Rostec and Rosatom would build waste incinerators in 25 tourist centers of the country for 600 billion rubles, there was no doubt which way of processing MSW was chosen.
- Waste incineration plants are an extremely dangerous story. We solve one problem and get another. This is a wild pollution of the surface atmosphere. They do only one thing - they can drastically reduce the volume of MSW. As the great Pirogov said: “What is the difference between poison and medicine? Only by concentration. " A decrease in volume leads to an increase in concentration. And where are these remnants to do, because then they will also have to be buried. But they become highly toxic waste. So people go out and fight, and rightly so. But they are fighting to keep these factories away from them. This is a problem of society, ecology and economics. The society is on the side of the economy, and in the economy everything depends on money, - says Vladimir Ekzaryan, head of the Department of Ecology and Environmental Management of the Russian State University for the Environment. Sergo Ordzhonikidze.
At the beginning of this year, in Peterhof and Lomonosov, people protested against the construction of incinerators in the Petrodvortsov district of St. Petersburg and made economic arguments. St. Petersburg is an energy-surplus region, and the energy obtained by burning garbage is much more expensive than that obtained by burning gas. “Everyone understands that officials will“ neither wash, nor roll ”through incineration, because they and their friendly business benefit from the most expensive methods of MSW disposal”, - said Yuri Shevchuk, Chairman of the North-West Interregional Public Environmental Organization “Green Cross”.
Hopefully the public will find out more about how the government intends to defeat garbage. "NO" will report this.
Clean air of cities
Another of the points of the plan to create a comfortable and safe environment for life is a threefold reduction in emissions hazardous to health by 2030. Environmentalists say the simplest thing is to start with road transport. And although for our poor country a complete transition to electric vehicles, which is planned for 2035, for example, in the UK, is hardly possible, it is possible to introduce stricter requirements for cars to limit harmful emissions.
A more complex problem with Russian enterprises. Most of them were built in the last century, and some - the year before. They need to be closed, but not closed. Instead of an environmental problem, the authorities will receive a social one.
- Reducing emissions is an absolutely real thing. It is necessary first to make a competent environmental audit of all enterprises, and then it will be necessary to control three parameters: emissions, discharges and waste, - says Professor Ekzaryan.
Clusters are now being created in the West, when similar single-profile enterprises are being built compactly. Treatment facilities are built for everyone, since the composition of the waste is the same. We have diversified enterprises on the same patch, and their waste is different, says Vladimir Ekzaryan. Investing in sewage treatment plants is a big investment. Therefore, if the state reorganizes these enterprises, this may partially solve the problem. The main thing is to invest.
The government is seriously concerned about dangerous objects of accumulated environmental damage. We are talking about landfills, landfills, sludge ponds, sedimentation ponds, dumps of rocks that have remained both from Soviet times and have arisen in modern times, when the owners could not or were unable to eliminate hazardous waste. In many countries, the government is in charge of liquidating such hot spots. These sites are now included in the national targets plan.
Environmentalists say that Rosatom has such a concept - nuclear legacy objects. These are repositories with radioactive waste or contaminated objects. Public funds are spent to eliminate them or maintain them in a safe state. But there are many other non-nuclear pollutants out there.
- And we have such no-man's objects, and someone must take them on the balance sheet. It is necessary to examine them and make cadastres of these objects. How many times have we told them: Guys, let's make an inventory of such facilities, we will make an environmental audit of such facilities. Connect universities! In response - no strength. What forces are there? Let's involve students, ecologists, hydrologists, hydrogeologists, hydrometeorologists - all of them can participate in this. It is not difficult to do this, the main thing is to prepare a methodology and determine indicators. And then we will have, yes, a rather generalized one, but an inventory of all points, ”says Professor Ekzaryan.
If last year 17 such facilities were liquidated, then this year 57 facilities are planned throughout the country. The work is being carried out within the framework of the Clean Country project. Thus, the White Sea sludge pond was liquidated on the territory of the Kaprolaknam plant in the city of Dzerzhinsk, Nizhny Novgorod region, where 4 million cubic meters of hazard class 4 waste were stored. More than 2 billion rubles were spent on this, or 520 rubles per 1 cubic meter of waste.
Greenpeace indicates that they have 203 facilities in their database , where more than 10 million tons of highly hazardous industrial waste are located. These are especially large objects, and how many of them are there throughout Russia, apparently, will only have to be found out.
"The Volga River is no more"
A separate line in the environmental part of the program includes projects for the environmental improvement of the water bodies of the Volga, Lake Baikal and Teletskoye Lake. There is a good big program for Baikal, experts say. They are funded and included in one of the 14 subsystems of the national monitoring of the Russian Federation. The authorities are monitoring both water and coastal areas.
Professor Ekzaryan does not even want to talk about the Volga river:
- Never talk about the Volga River again. The Volga River has been gone for a long time. There is the Volga cascade of reservoirs. It is a natural and technical complex created by man. If a person competently organized its operation, would properly drain water for different purposes, then everything would be fine. And now the water in the Volgograd reservoir is blooming. This is called "extradition". This is because the water is not running. They opened the dam, made releases. But we do releases for other reasons. They are aimed only at energy. But releases must be turned on for fish, for extraction. There is no ecological system "Volga".
On the Volga, observation is extremely difficult, because there are a lot of sources of infection. The purpose of the program can only be water protection. The ecological system "Volga" can no longer be returned. The point of homeostasis, or no return, has been passed. The Aral Sea also cannot be restored. If the authorities want, they can try to create something new that will slightly resemble the Aral or Volga, says Vladimir Ekzaryan.
- The Rybinsk reservoir began to fill in 1941, and it was filled in 1947. Huge territories are flooded there, cities are flooded there. When I came here, the boat captain put on his full uniform, the crew lined up on the deck, the captain gave the signal. It was goodbye to the city below. It's Russia! We live in Russia. This is not to be understood. And no national project will help here.