All news

Experts say fines for driving across Arctic lakes should remain

In case the fines are cancelled the Arctic nature may suffer greatly, according to the experts

MOSCOW, July 18. /TASS/. Experts, representing residents of the northern territories and ecologists, doubt the initiative of Nents legislators, who suggested cancelling fines for driving water and peat crossing vehicles in the Arctic across water reservoirs.

The experts confirm the problem's importance and say in case the fines are cancelled the Arctic nature may suffer greatly, thus the initiative should undergo an ecology study.

Vehicles of demand

According to the current legislation, use of vehicles at water protection areas is fined between 3,000 to 4,500 rubles ($50-75) for individuals, 8-12 thousand rubles ($133-200) for officials, and between 200 and 400 thousand rubles ($3,300-6,600) for legal entities.

The bill's authors say there are very many water reservoirs in the North, while quite often there are no roads between settlements, and thus use of snow or peat vehicles are of high demand there. "They are used in the Extreme North for better communication, and for better medical services, for deliveries of food and various services," the bill's authors said.

Head of the Nizhnekolymsky district in Yakutia, Ivan Suzdalov, shares this opinion. "A specific feature of Yakutia's north is a big number of small rivers, lakes and reservoirs, crossing which in winter may be possible only by a snow vehicle, as thin ice would not stand heavy vehicles," he told TASS. "Certain Arctic and northern districts survived through the recent winter literally only due to the snow vehicles."

In 2017, winter in the republic's Arctic districts saw records of snow - five times more than average. Thus, winter roads were not available for a long time, as under the thick snow ice would not become firm, and vehicles could not cross the water areas. "The distance to some of the settlements is more than 400 km, and we delivered fuels only by snow vehicles," the official said. "Some private businesses use snow vehicles to deliver fuel, food and necessary things to the locals there."

Minding impact on environment

Experts say, before lifting the fines, it is necessary to consider possible environmental consequences. "How snow vehicles move - along smooth ice, for example, along the sea shore," head of the union of local hunters Vladimir Tyanigin told TASS. "But how the emissions may affect the environment - this is something to be tested, I believe."

The idea of necessary tests was also suggested by Yakutia's legislator Elena Golomareva. "The snow vehicles are vitally necessary for residents of the Arctic zone, but before cancelling the fines for driving above the water reservoirs we need to have a thorough scientific research to find out how much they damage the water reservoirs," she told TASS. "In case of no damage, the fines may be cancelled. Otherwise, I believe, it is not timely to cancel the water protecting measures of the water code."

She continued saying in Yakutia, in the area of traditional low-numbered indigenous peoples reindeer herders and fishers may without restriction cross water reservoirs. "We do not charge those fines, as they at their native lands have the right to use snow vehicles to travel the water reservoirs," the legislator said.

Snow races

The Krasnoyarsk region's ecologist, head of the Plotina (Dam) Organization Alexander Kolotov was skeptical about the initiative. "The reasons are clear: in the areas with numerous small water reservoirs driving a snow vehicle in winter outside those reservoirs is practically impossible," he said. "On the other hand, by cancelling this ban, we actually invite people to drive snow vehicles wherever they want, since there are no longer any limitations referring to water reserves."

"Would this freedom favor the Arctic nature? I am very much doubtful - most probably it would legalize the uncontrolled snow races," he added.

It would be necessary to consider situations in every district of the Extreme North, he said. "However, as yet we can see the attitude to the legislation is similar to use of a switch, which has two positions: "permit" and "cancel permit"," the ecologist added.