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Experts: Cutting-edge technology, transport control will solve Arctic’s pollution dilemma

February 17, 16:52 UTC+3 KRASNOYARSK

The Russian Arctic seriously suffers from transport emissions

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© Geological Institute, Russian Academy of Sciences press service/TASS

KRASNOYARSK, February 17. /TASS/. The problem of air pollution remains greatly important - in several Russian cities residents have organized rallies in defense of their right for clear air. The Ministry of Natural Resources reported in December that 17 million Russians live in cities with high and extremely high levels of pollution.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued an order to have by mid-September mechanisms to cut emissions and to make them legally binding. Experts have told TASS the situation may change in case industrial facilities used modern technologies and if the automotive transport is regulated by organization of more paid parking options and by use of the Euro 5 fuel ecology standard.

Soviet heritage

"At the State Duma’s plenary meeting on February 10 we heard one of such examples: people living in Nakhodka in the Maritime Territory suffer from coal dust and demand banning coal reloading openly. Everything is covered with coal dust there, and, most importantly - the upsurge of diseases. A similar problem in is the Vanino port in the Khabarovsk Territory, where people go on protest rallies," head of the State Duma’s committee on ecology and environment, Olga Timofeyeva, told TASS.

In many places industrial facilities are right in the heart of cities. For example, in Krasnoyarsk, with more than one million residents, the alumni and cement plants, three big heat electric plants and coal heating stations are inside the city. The state report on environment calls the situation there as high level of pollution. In 2015 only, the emissions made 195,000 tons, where 34% came from automotive transport, 31% from Rusal’s alumni plant and 23% - from the three heat power plants of the Siberian Generation Company.

"To a big extent, this is the heritage of the past. Some facilities have been inside the city form the time of World War II, as at that time all efforts were directed towards the victory, and it was vital to have production organized fast. After the war, the situation remained unchanged," Director of the Ecology and Geography Institute at the Siberian Federal University Ruslan Sarafutdinov said, adding among other factors are the specific natural topography, the coal generation and the big numbers of cars in Krasnoyarsk.

Similar problems are also in Bratsk, the Irkutsk region. Representative of the local environmental prosecution Dmitry Petrenev said about big mistakes in formation of the city. The main problem there is even not that industrial facilities are nearby, but the fact the thick lanes of forests, separating them from residential areas, are cut and crossed by big highways. They form up open spaces, esplanades, along which the emissions rush into the city.

Arctic suffers from transport

The Russian Arctic also suffers from transport emissions. Scientists of the Tomsk Polytechnic University and the Pacific Oceanology Institute say from gas flares into the air come up to 6% of black carbon, from wildfires - up to 12%, from heat power plants - up to 9%, and the main share of pollution comes from transport (38%). The experts say, the Arctic air is polluted as vehicles from the Russian European part bring polluted air with them. The dropping of soot on snow and ice reduces reflection of the Sun radiation, thus causing bigger melting.

Weather is to blame

"Another acute problem is industrial pollution in unfavorable weather conditions, that is on overcast days with no wind," the legislator said. "This is a typical problem of Krasnoyarsk, the Urals."

Krasnoyarsk’s officials said that in the past year the unfavorable weather conditions were announced 24 times, in 2015 - 26 times, while back in 2013 the "black skies" alert was announced only seven times.

In the Urals, the situation with smog and polluted air made ecologists suggest using special fog cannons. "Of course, they would not clear the city from the smog, but anyway will make life better for the people there, as -when sprayed-the highly dispersed water may grasp the floating particles of 10 microns and more, pushing them to the surface, and also may suppress odors," head of the My Planet ecology foundation Vitaly Bezrukov told TASS.

Universal solution

Experts agree, settlement of the ecology-related problems in cities may be possible from use of adjusted ecology-friendly equipment. "We can see a universal solution in using at industrial facilities of modern technologies to cut negative impacts on the environment," the legislator continued. "Technologies of the kind are available in descriptions of best technologies."

Meanwhile, plants have been reporting improvement of equipment and closing down of production lines affecting the environment. For example, in Norilsk, north of Krasnoyarsk Territory, an old nickel producing plant was closed down. Every year, it used to emit about 380,000 tons of polluting agents.

"Rosprirodnadzor (environment watchdog) ordered closing of two shops at that plant, but the company decided to close down the entire production," Norilsk Nickel told TASS. Head of the Green Patrol non-governmental organization Roman Pukalov said closing of the plant had improved the situation in the city. The emissions are down by a third, he told TASS.

In Kemerovo, which produces 60% of coal in Russia, 50 ecology-hazardous enterprises were closed in recent 19 years, the region’s head Aman Tuleyev said. Thus, the emissions reduced by 35%, or by 325,000 tons a year. The official called a major ecological project in 2016 the electric power plant at the local Koks enterprise, as it is fueled by the "poisonous coke gas," which formerly used to be burned.

Thus, the region got rid this enormous environmental burden. "Nobody could imagine Kemerovo without that torch," the governor said, adding the ecology problem remains most important "both for Kuzbass and for Russia."

The Omsk region also has reported reduced emissions: in five years the cut made 30,000 tons, mostly due to efforts of local enterprises. For example, the Polyom plant, producing polypropylene, installed equipment to recuperate used gases, and the big modernization of the Omsk oil refinery reduced the emissions by 36%.

Unpopular measures

However, the biggest source of pollution is the automotive transport. "Its share in cities varies: in Chelyabinsk the main polluter is industrial enterprises, and in the capital - the automotive transport," the Green Patrol representative said. The situation became worse, he continued, as the obligatory technical inspection now is made not by state-run and thus highly controlled, but by private companies.

"Of big importance is also control over public transport: technically outdated buses must not be used, and the public transport should be using fuel of Euro 4 and Euro 5 standards," he said. "Besides, quite effective would be such unpopular measures as paid parking in central districts of big cities and banning entrance to central areas for heavy vehicles."

"In Moscow, such measures have cut annual emissions by 100,000 tons," he told TASS.".

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