Why in the 21st century Russia remains without a normal sewerage system

Why in the 21st century Russia remains without a normal sewerage system
Why in the 21st century Russia remains without a normal sewerage system
13 July, 14:31PoliticsPhoto: ptzgovorit.ru
Last week, the head of the Ministry of Construction of the Russian Federation Irek Fayzullin said that most accidents in the housing and utilities sector occur in the water supply and sewerage system.

It is difficult for Muscovites to imagine that something can go wrong with the sewerage or disposal of sewage (except for stormwater drainage). However, such news can not surprise the majority of Russians.

Victoria Pavlova

At first glance, there is nothing complicated in sewage - it existed in the cities of the Maya Indians and in ancient Rome. A well-developed sewage system is a sign of a civilized society, to which one so wants to rank oneself. But impartial statistics cast doubt on this.

Even in a city like Tula with a population of almost 550 thousand people, more than 121 thousand people are not provided with central drainage systems. But septic tanks and cesspools in the private sector are half the trouble. They are a source of unpleasant odors and carriers of infections (especially if they overflow and their contents are poured onto the streets), but they have not yet led to global disasters.

Sewerage at risk to life

On a national scale, other problems pose a great threat: these are accidents in the sewerage system and at treatment facilities, as well as often the complete absence of these same treatment facilities. You don't have to go far for examples: only at the beginning of July near Novosibirsk, due to a sewer pipe burst, the Ob reservoir was polluted, in Samara the traffic of cars and trams was blocked due to the destruction of a sewer pipe, in Astrakhan residents complain about spills of sewage in the yards, therefore that communal service cases do not have time to work out all accidents. Sometimes the emergency state of the sewage system leads to tragic consequences: in May, in the suburb of Taganrog, 11 workers were killed, eliminating the consequences of a breakthrough at outdated treatment facilities, from methane poisoning, in the Krasnoyarsk Territory two workers died while cleaning the sewers, in a penal colony in the Ivanovo region, two died from poisoning prisoners when cleaning the sewer canals.

According to the Accounting Chamber, 88% of wastewater to be treated is discharged into water bodies untreated to the proper level, and 95% of rural settlements, in principle, do not have treatment facilities. That is, everything that you flush down the toilet ends up in rivers, lakes and seas.

Moreover, even the status of the resort does not save from the uncontrolled discharge of sewage with feces into local water bodies. Sochi, Crimea, Baikal - they all suffer from the lack of a normal sewerage system with treatment facilities. In Sochi, the flagship of domestic tourism, outbreaks of rotavirus in August and September, when the sea is hottest, have long become commonplace. Even TV presenter and doctor Alexander Myasnikov warned before the summer season of 2021 about annual outbreaks of rotavirus, noravirus, hepatitis A, enteroviruses, Coxsackie viruses in southern resorts.

How things are in Crimea - says the head of the Crimean public organization "Ecology and Peace" Andrey Artov:

- There is a terrible situation in Koktebel - everything flows into the bay there. There are also small private cafes, restaurants, hotels - they all pour into the rain sewer, and it flows into the bay. In Crimea, there are places of very acute problems - like in Koktebel. There are places that are not very acute: treatment facilities are working in the zone from Yalta to Foros - there were large sanatoriums, Tsekov's boarding houses, everything was done normally there - and the situation there is still more or less good. And from Alushta to Sudak - this is Solnechnogorskoye, Rybachye, Malorechenskoye - there simply began a boom of private hotels in the 2000s, and there was no normal sewage system and normal treatment facilities. There were small settlements, and the development of private recreational territories began, and the issue with wastewater was acute. Whoever digs a hole on the beach builds a cafe, and there, right next to it, everything is poured into this hole.

As experts note, everything is very clear with the Ukrainian period of Crimea - then there was simply no money to modernize the infrastructure. But since 2014, everything has changed - a bridge has been built, the road network is developing. But there is still no full-fledged sewage system...

As noted by the Crimean social activist and human rights activist Alexander Talipov, no significant progress is observed today.

- Why for all the long time Crimea has been in Russia they ( sewage and treatment facilities - ed.) Are also not being modernized is a big question. The funds of the Federal Target Program (Federal Target Program), aimed, among other things, at the modernization of sewer networks, are spent, to put it mildly, ineffectively. A many-kilometer pipe lies on the beach, it prevents vacationers from sunbathing and swimming - this is a deep-sea discharge of sewage water, which was supposed to be built in December last year, and then this period has already been extended, and now it is July, and no one is doing any work, but this the kilometer-long pipe, which, obviously, should have been brought into the sea, just lies on the beach, and there are no workers nearby - the project is abandoned.

The reasons for delays in the construction of sewerage and treatment facilities can be different. One of them is corruption. So, for example, on May 1, 2021, in Sevastopol, the former general director of JSC NPP Biotechprocess was sentenced to 7 years in prison and a fine of 800 thousand rubles was calculated for the theft of 2 billion rubles allocated for the design and construction of Yuzhnye sewage treatment facilities. The money was transferred to the bank, which soon went bankrupt. The funds were never returned. But even if the money does not disappear instantly, the situation does not get better. The current contractors in Kerch have already missed the deadlines for the construction of treatment facilities by at least a year. According to experts, construction is complicated by the extremely low quality of projects.

There is no money and will not be

But, as Svetlana Razorotneva, executive director of the non-profit partnership Housing and Communal Services Control, notes, on a national scale, corruption is far from the main obstacle to modernizing sewage systems. Now it can be neglected altogether. But not at all because crystal honest people work in this area, but because there is simply no money in other regions - there is nothing to steal:

- What kind of corruption is there if there is no money? The case of Sevastopol is a special story, because in recent years, a lot of money has been poured into Crimea and Sevastopol under various programs.

Regions, on the other hand, are faced with a total underfunding of outdated and in need of repair sewer infrastructure. Moreover, according to the executive director of the Russian Association for Water Supply and Sanitation, Yelena Dovlatova, it is impossible to solve the problem by raising tariffs for sanitation.

- The sewerage system as a whole throughout the country, for the most part in all regions, is in a deplorable state. The peak of its construction was in the 70s and, unfortunately, little has changed since then. Only large cities can carry out large-scale reconstruction, the rest are economically unable to do anything, because this is a very capital-intensive infrastructure that cannot be built at the expense of the tariff. There are essentially no other sources. At the same time, our tariff today is infinitely small, on average in Russia it is 27 rubles per cubic meter. This means that 1000 liters of wastewater (which include a huge amount of not only municipal, but also industrial pollution) must be turned into clean water, which in quality should be higher than drinking water from the tap. That is 2.5 kopecks per liter to turn dirty water into clean water. Unimaginable! At the same time, the growth of tariffs does not exceed 4% annually, and if we add these percentages to 27 rubles, it will not change anything at all.

Of course, the state allocates money for the modernization of communal infrastructure. You can't argue with this fact. Another question is how and on what this money can be spent. Svetlana Razorotneva points out that spending them is not a trivial task:

- The Fund for Assistance to Housing and Utilities Reform had 15 billion rubles to co-finance the modernization of the utility infrastructure. At first, this money lay idle, because the Ministry of Finance said that this money was only to pay off interest on loans. Let there be a concessionaire ... naturally, concessionaires were not involved in such projects. Then we at the Fund achieved the introduction of direct co-financing of projects - the regions lined up, made several very good projects for both treatment facilities and heat supply. And that's all, the money ran out - no one began to continue this program. There was no more help at the federal level. On the regional - well, you can count 1-2 regions on your fingers. Local budgets a priori have no money, they cannot attract investors, and therefore this is just a dead-end option.

The need to return the money to the state is the main problem on which the development of infrastructure in Russia is hampered. This is the point of view that Yelena Dovlatova adheres to:

- We have 500 billion concessional infrastructure loans (these funds are not only for sewerage, of course, but the regions can use them for the reconstruction and construction of treatment facilities), the Fund for Assistance to the Reform of Housing and Communal Services has 150 billion for relevant projects. But the problem is that all these budgetary funds must be returned, and in the absence of an economy in the field of wastewater disposal, including because of the low tariff, this is almost impossible to do. The entire sewage system is an unprofitable industry, it does not generate profit, it has no payback.

Although, our resourceful authorities can solve the problem of inconsistency between the purity of effluents and standards without extra money. So, in 2019, the Ministry of Natural Resources, in order to solve the problem of underfunding of the national project "Ecology" and pollution of Lake Baikal with wastewater, simply issued a decree increasing the maximum permissible concentration of pollutants in wastewater. As a result, the limiting content of nitrates in wastewater was increased 14 times, of anionic synthetic surfactants (AS Surfactants) - 10 times, chromium - 6 times, oil products - 1.8 times, chlorides - 1.5 times, ammonium - 1.3 times. Very convenient and productive: no formal infraction - no pollution.

As a result, the country finds itself in a stalemate: no money - no infrastructure, there is money - there is corruption and still there is no infrastructure. To solve the problem, Yelena Dovlatova proposes to transfer the sewerage system to free market conditions, providing support only to those who really need payers.

- Only the tariff that we need to raise will help, there are no other options. In Europe, the tariff is incommensurable with ours - it is 2 euros, which is completely different money compared to the Russian 27 rubles. We use the same materials, the same equipment as abroad, and the standard of living does not play any role here. Of course, it is necessary to help those who cannot pay, and not to make the tariff understated for all categories of the population and talk about a welfare state. We need to go the other way: make an economically sound tariff, really improve the quality of services and give subsidies to those who need them.

But this approach contradicts state policy, which is based on a social contract: the government provides a minimum level of quality of life without unnecessary efforts on the part of the population, and people support the government. And until the government decides in a directive order (this is the only way reforms are being carried out now) to tackle the problem, allocate money and control their spending, the regions (not only show resorts, but all poor subjects) are doomed to drown in their feces.

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