ARKHANGELSK, September 5 (Itar-Tass) —— Almost 4,000 tons of waste have been disposed on the Arctic Alexandra Land in less than a month under the program of cleaning the Franz-Joseph Land Archipelago from man-made litter of the 1930s-1990s, Marina Menshikova, press secretary of the Russian Arctic national park comprising the archipelago, told Itar-Tass on Tuesday.
Half of the litter tagged for disposal in 2012 has been cleaned, Russian Arctic Deputy Director Alexander Kirilov said. “Some 760 tons of fuel and lubricants were put in storage, about 3,000 tonnes of scrap metal were taken away, and nearly 2,000 barrels were pressed – that was slightly more than 750 tons. A total of 1,500 tons of solid waste were scrapped,” he said.
Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Sergei Donskoy, who visited the Franz-Joseph Land on September 1, said the Alexandra Land would be cleaned fully by the end of 2014. “We are working on the environmental safety of the Arctic zone. This year alone we will collect 8,000 tons of scrap metal on the archipelago, and the tempo of works will not slow down next year,” he said.
The cleaning program was drafted in 2011. The Russian Geographic Society takes part in the project. The works have begun on two islands, the Alexandra Land and Guker.
“No less than 8,000 tons of waste will be scrapped on these islands by late October, and no less than 50 hectares of land will be reclaimed. A total of 650 million rubles have been assigned for the works. They will last until the winter season, when we will store our cleaning equipment until next summer,” Menshikova said. Some 115 people with over 20 vehicles are cleaning the Alexandra Land.
“There are abandoned fuel storages, empty barrels, construction material and household waste, vehicles and aircraft, radio-electronic gadgets, storage batteries and other litter” on the archipelago, Russian Arctic Director Roman Yershov said. “In all, there are 78,500 tonnes of litter. The Alexandra Land, the westernmost point of the archipelago, and the Graham-Bell Island, which is now uninhabited but earlier housing the largest air defense base in the Western Arctic region, are polluted most,” he noted.
The Franz-Joseph Land is a nature conservancy zone, the habitat of seven species on the Russian Red Book, among them polar bears and Atlantic walruses.