Orange sky and black lungs: why the clean air in Russia is only in projects

Orange sky and black lungs: why the clean air in Russia is only in projects

11 November , 23:20Society
In Russia, 22.7 million tons of harmful substances were released into the air last year. Benzo (a) pyrene became the main pollutant. It belongs to the substances of the first hazard class and causes oncology.

For more information about what Russians breathe and what measures are being taken by the authorities, see the material of Novye Izvestia.

Daria Voznesenskaya

According to a VTsIOM poll, most Russians consider air pollution to be the most pressing environmental problem. At the same time, 36% of the surveyed citizens believe that the authorities are trying to solve environmental problems, but their successes are very modest. 33% of respondents do not see any results.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers air pollution to be one of the leading causes of death and illness worldwide. It accounts for 29% of all cases of illness and death from lung cancer, 25% - from coronary heart disease, 24% - from stroke. Every year in Russia from 80 to 140 thousand premature deaths occur due to polluted air, which is comparable to the population of such Russian cities as Nakhodka, Kolomna or Kislovodsk.

Dust cars in Nizhny Tagil

Air pollution in Nizhny Tagil is a long-standing and well-known problem. In 2018, a low level of pollution was recorded, follows from the report of Roshydromet. However, in 2019, an "increased" was registered again. This is due to an increase in the concentration of benzo (a) pyrene, the average concentration of which increased by 50% over the year. In addition, the concentration of suspended solids increased by 22%, and over the past 5 years, the level of dust in Nizhny Tagil increased by 18%.

According to , more than 1.7 thousand wagons of harmful substances are discharged into the city annually. The city's main polluters are well known. This is EVRAZ NTMK, which accounts for most of the carbon monoxide emissions, VGOK - also CO2. Uralvagonzavod choked the city with nitrogen oxide, Planta with carbon monoxide, Uralchimplast with formaldehyde. Also , sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, silica dust, iron oxide (trioxide), etc. enter the air in large quantities.

In the last annual report on the state of sanitary and epidemiological well-being of the population of the Russian Federation in 2018 regarding the Sverdlovsk region, we can say that mortality from malignant neoplasms is consistently associated with air pollution with benzopyrene, formaldehyde and heavy metals ,” says ecologist Eduard Kadyrov .

He noted that when the excess of the MPC of pollutants is obvious, then a person immediately feels it - a sore throat, lacrimation, etc. When the concentrations are not so high, then harmful substances have a delayed harm to human health for a long time. Sooner or later, this leads to chronic diseases or a decrease in life expectancy. By the way, there is a reason in Nizhny Tagil there are kindergartens for children suffering from allergic pathologies.

In the first and second quarters of 2020, excess of the maximum permissible concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide was recorded, in the third - nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide. The largest single excess of MPC was recorded in June - 2.9 times for hydrogen sulfide.

An ecologist and social activist from Nizhny Tagil, Andrei Volegov, sees the main reason for air pollution in old industries that were built in the 40-50s. last century. Now enterprises do not want to bear the cost of upgrading equipment.

If we take EVRAZ, then in the 2000s and early 10s the company emitted 100 thousand tons of harmful substances per year, in 2016 - 80 thousand tons, and now - 60 thousand tons. If you count, then for each person there is more than 100 kg of dust, says Volegov. He notes that there are changes, but far from being dramatic. In particular, over the past 5 years, emissions from EVRAZ have decreased by 25%, and the Clean Air project has a goal to reduce them by 45% by 2024. At the same time, the expert complains that 45% is not enough, if the officials were not so lenient, without this framework, the enterprise could significantly reduce emissions.

Volegov also recalled that the enterprise does not have a sanitary protection zone (SPZ). Several years ago, the environmental prosecutor's office achieved its installation through the courts. However, EVRAZ stated that it had fulfilled all its obligations, sent the documentation for approval to Moscow, but there the project was “hacked to death”. In addition, the company does not plan to create it until 2024, until the modernization takes place.

They say that when the modernization is done, only then will the issue of installing a sanitary protection zone be considered. Since if they approve them now, and then make modernization, they will have to redo the sanitary protection zone. This is their excuse, and thus they do not return to the issue of SPZ. Their revenue has grown tenfold compared to previous years. And in general, for so many years it would have been possible to accumulate the required amount and create a sanitary protection zone, but they do not want to, because they understand that there will be excess of the maximum permissible concentration, and they will have to answer for this , ”the ecologist explained.

Volegov claims that emissions in Nizhny Tagil occur every day. However, if earlier the UGMS provided a complete picture of what was happening, now it does not register emissions for several days. “Although we all observe them through the windows,” the public figure noted.

This, for example, happened in September: no emissions were recorded for at least 11 days. However, according to a survey of citizens, they did not notice the absence of emissions. Only 7.8% noted that the air became cleaner. And almost 66% thought that "there is nothing to breathe, as always."

The ecologist believes that in order to solve the problem, the authorities of the region and the city should negotiate with private structures to reduce emissions, and not just control the implementation of the Clean Air project within this 20%. However, according to the ecologist, the administration says that it has no authority to interfere with the activities of enterprises.

Volegov also complains that because of the current environmental situation in Nizhny Tagil, people simply leave the city. “ We have a lot of lung diseases, a lot of asthmatics ... People often complain on the Internet that because of orange emissions they feel bad and take a rest at home. However, they do not call a doctor and do not complain to Rospotrebnadzor. I advise them to always call a doctor so that he officially fixes the cause of the poisoning. Then you can go to court and ask for compensation for treatment, as well as for non-working days. In addition, residents who see emissions are advised to call the Emergencies Ministry. There, at least, they will fix it, and after a year it will be possible to find out the statistics - how many people have complained about and what, ”he said.

Social media users in Nizhny Tagil always react violently to news about new emissions and pollution. “ We need to get out of here and radically change our lives and our little children, who are not yet saturated with this shit like us, ” -wrote Nastenka Trifonova under one of these posts.

" EVRAZ does not make people stronger ... It makes them sick ... Now the mortality rate of cancer patients will jump ," added Antonio Ugoo .

There is a systematic reduction in the population! ", - says Elena Sidorenko .

In normal cities, factories are located outside the city, and not on the street where people and children live ,” Olga Segina said .

Within the framework of the federal project "Clean Air", for which total funding for 2019–2024. in the Sverdlovsk region exceeds 2.3 billion rubles, a number of enterprises, according to official data, have already managed to reduce gross emissions. We are talking about JSC EVRAZ NTMK, whose emissions were reduced by about 7 thousand tons, JSC VGOK, where they were reduced by about 0.8 thousand tons, JSC NPK Uralvagonzavod, where by the end of 2020 it is expected to decrease by 0.03 thousand tons.

In addition, in October, a third automatic air pollution control station was installed in Nizhniy Tagil. Also, in order to reduce the level of gas pollution in the air within the framework of the Clean Air project, it is planned to upgrade the rolling stock and transfer public transport and equipment of road and communal services to gas motor fuel, the administration website says .

But this is clearly not enough.

22.73 million tons of harmful substances and 500 billion rubles

According to Rosprirodnadzor, the total volume of pollutant emissions in Russia in 2019 decreased 1.4 times compared to 2018, and amounted to 22.73 million tons. According to the FinExpertiza consulting network, such atmospheric pollution is comparable to half of the gasoline produced in the country per year. To a greater extent, the figure has decreased due to a decrease in emissions from vehicles by almost three times. Most likely, the change in this indicator is associated with a change in the accounting system for carbon monoxide emitted from mobile sources, as well as with an increase in the number of gas-powered vehicles. It is worth noting that until 2019, emissions from transport from year to year remained fairly stable, and over a twenty-year period of statistical observations fluctuated in the range of 12.8-15.4 million tons. However, since 2019, Rosprirodnadzor has changed the method for calculating automobile emissions, as a result, the annual amount of emissions has already been estimated at 5.4 million tons. It is hard to believe that two-thirds of citizens have switched from petrol cars to gas ones. Obviously, the department decided to work on statistics. Such "changes" have little effect on the quality of the inhaled air and on the number of diseases, but they greatly adorn the reporting.

The report of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment "On the state and protection of the environment of the Russian Federation in 2019" states that last year, air monitoring was carried out in 250 cities of the country. Moreover, 40 of them were exposed to high and very high air pollution. Most of them are located in the Siberian Federal District. In total, these cities make up 18% of all cities in Russia. They are home to 10.6 million people, or 10% of the urban population. Thus, according to Roshydromet , there are three cities with high and very high pollution levels on the territory of Buryatia, four in the Krasnoyarsk Territory, and nine in the Irkutsk Region. In six subjects of the Russian Federation, such a level of air pollution was noted in all cities where observations are carried out.

Also last year, in 133 cities of Russia, where 50.6 million people live, the average annual concentrations of one or more harmful substances exceeded 1 MPC (maximum permissible concentration): in 53 the concentration of suspended solids was exceeded, in 47 - benzo (a) pyrene, in 45 - formaldehyde, in 44 - nitrogen dioxide. There are four such cities in the Republic of Crimea and the Orenburg region, five in the Moscow, Sverdlovsk and Ulyanovsk regions, six in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and the Sakhalin Region, ten in the Rostov Region, and 14 in the Irkutsk Region.

In addition, in 35 cities with a total population of 10.7 million people, the maximum concentrations of pollutants exceeded 10 MPC . In Buryatia, Khakassia, in the Altai, Trans-Baikal and Khabarovsk regions, in the Arkhangelsk and Kemerovo regions there are two such cities, in the Krasnoyarsk region - three, in the Irkutsk region - nine.

It should be noted that the priority list of cities with the highest level of air pollution, compiled by Roshydromet, includes only 18 - with a total population of 3.3 million people. Some of them are included in the Clean Air project of the Ecology national project, according to which, by 2024, it is planned to reduce the total volume of pollutant emissions in large industrial centers by 22% from the level of 2018. We are talking about such cities as Bratsk, Krasnoyarsk, Lipetsk, Magnitogorsk, Mednogorsk, Nizhny Tagil, Novokuznetsk, Norilsk, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, Cherepovets and Chita.

The authorities plan to reduce the emissions of pollutants from the thermal power industry and the private sector by gasifying the private sector, modernizing and overhauling the existing facilities of the thermal power complex. It is planned to transfer transport to environmentally friendly fuels and upgrade the transport rolling stock, as well as measures to upgrade and develop road infrastructure.

As for the main air pollutants in the country, there is no big secret here. According to FinExpertiza, metallurgical production remains the most polluting industry with 3.7 million tonnes of emissions per year, followed by energy (3 million tonnes), and oil and gas production with 2.4 million tonnes. In the structure of transport emissions, cars account for about 97%, and rail transport only 3%.

The main part (37.8%) of air polluting emissions is carbon monoxide (carbon monoxide, an extremely toxic compound without taste and smell). This is followed by sulfur dioxide (16.3%), methane (17.5%), nitrogen oxide (12.6%), volatile organic compounds - ethylene, benzene, xylene, toluene, acetone, gasoline, kerosene (7.5% ).

Initially, it was planned to allocate over 500 billion rubles to finance the Clean Air project. In particular, in 2020, Russia was supposed to introduce a unified state system of environmental monitoring of air quality. However, these plans had to be postponed for a year, since the supplier was not selected, the terms of reference were not implemented. According to the head of Rosprirodnadzor, Svetlana Radionova , without this system, it is difficult to set goals to reduce emissions and achieve their implementation. “ By calculation, everything is good, but breathing is bad, ” she said . Also Radionova considers “environmental” fines low. In her opinion, "they are the smallest in the country and do not encourage anything."

The Accounts Chamber also noted that air pollution remains high in 12 cities participating in the project. Environmental departments do not have time to use the funds allocated to them in time. In this connection, 15 billion rubles were returned to the budget this year. In 2021-2022 funding will also be cut by 60-65%.

According to Mikhail Men , an auditor of the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation, the redistribution of funding is due to the delay in developing the regulatory framework, as well as the lack of effective initiatives to improve air quality required for the project. It is hard to imagine that in cities suffocating from harmful elections, there are no activists and citizens ready to take part in the solution of environmental programs. It turns out that it is easier for the authorities to send a city to a medium-sized cemetery than to spend on citizens the funds so necessary for a healthy life. Meanwhile, the main task of the state was and remains to take care of the health of the population. This is why citizens pay taxes.

Vladimir Burmatov , Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Ecology and Environmental Protection, believes that there are risks of failure of the Clean Air project. In October, he said that the regions in 2020 did not receive a dime of their federal funds, the project was implemented on their own. In order for the money to reach the regions, plans must be drawn up, taking into account the emission quotas of enterprises. And this is possible only after the preparation of the summary calculations of the Ministry of Natural Resources, Burmatov says.

Who is to blame and what to do?

And about. Alexander Zakadyrin , chairman of the public council under the Ministry of Natural Resources, believes that the problem of air pollution is associated with economic activity, urbanization of cities and, in general, with anthropogenic presence. The most polluted territories are the largest industrial centers such as Krasnoyarsk, Novokuznetsk, Chelyabinsk, he notes.

According to Ivan Blokov , director of programs for the Russian branch of Greenpeace, Russia remains in a bad situation with air pollution, since no one fully knows what is happening. In particular, the data received and stored by Rospotrebnadzor, in some cases, do not fit together. Often industrialists do not want to provide real information, and sometimes they themselves do not have it.

In addition, Rospotrebnadzor has been raising the maximum permissible concentration of a number of substances for several years, including formaldehyde by 3.3 times and methyl mercaptan by more than 600 times !

Therefore, now, if you go out and smell methyl mercaptan, it may still be within the maximum permissible concentration ,” Blokov noted. At the same time, on paper, the increase in MAC has led to a sharp "improvement" in the state of the environment in many settlements. But in fact, the air did not become cleaner from this.

According to the expert, to improve the situation, it is necessary to change the overall environmental control system. For example, it should not be the same as now, when the same body - Rosprirodnadzor - and manages the Clean Air project and approves the methodology by which the indicators are determined. In addition, Blokov speaks of "leapfrog in legislation" and lack of political will. In his opinion, the payment for the negative impact on the environment should increase.

Blokov also believes that Russia does not have enough supervisory inspectors. In addition, they also have low salaries. The expert cited the example of the Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous Okrug, where it was possible to reduce the pollution of the Ob by more than 10 times. Blokov believes that the regional administration is working quite well there, including due to the fact that inspectors' salaries reach 200 thousand rubles.

Zakadyrin believes that within the framework of the Clean Air project it is necessary to make calculations of air pollution by marker substances - these are the most dangerous substances, 1-2 hazard classes, which have the greatest impact on human health. And also, in his opinion, it is necessary to revise the list of cities included in the project, since three of them demonstrate a low level of pollution. At the same time, there are 18 cities with a very high pollution level and 22 with a high level of pollution, which “for some reason no one deals with”.

Zakadyrin also drew attention to the main drawback of the Clean Air project. So, within the framework of it, enterprises need to modernize production in order to reduce the amount of emissions. But some enterprises have been doing this for many years and have already done everything that they could do without reducing production volumes.

And this is the main drawback of this project. That is, in this way, we motivate not excellent students, but poor students. People who have done nothing or have done little will be able to achieve KPIs . And those who have been doing this for 20 years - no, because they have nothing special to cut , ”the expert says.

In addition, Zakondyrin noted that there are moments that are not part of the federal project, but they also need to be addressed. “ Russia is a country that exports gas, but is fired on coal, as in the 18th century. The entire eastern part is not supplied with gas. Until we gasify Krasnoyarsk, we will not solve the problem of clean air. Krasnoyarsk is still fired with the cheapest coal , ”he explained.

It is necessary to start solving the problem of transport and traffic jams. “ This is a problem for all large cities and even medium-sized ones. This is not a direct environmental problem, it is a problem of traffic management, road construction, creation of normal logistics solutions, and improvement of the ecological class of vehicles. Calculations of standards in Soviet times were not calculated for the amount of vehicles that are now, ”the expert concluded.

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