Forest fires-2017. In Russia hide the truth about the scale of the disaster


Лесные пожары-2017. Как в России скрывают правду о масштабах бедствия

Summer of 2017 is not a record number of forest fires, but he still has all chances to be among the leaders for the past 18 years. According to official data, “Avialesookhrana” on 10 September, with the beginning of 2017 in Russia there were 10 475 forest fires with a total area of 4 632 358 hectares. However, experts are independent environmental organisations believe the real figure could be materially different from what we are told of the Ministry, and the silencing of objective information on the extent of forest fires is the main cause of uncontrollable natural disasters.

A half-truth — is honesty

Fire season 2017 in Russia ends in October. In several regions the situation remains tense. Fires in Russia in 2017 began in March — the first centers appeared in the forests of Primorye, Khabarovsk territory, Irkutsk and Voronezh regions. Over the summer, most of the forests burned in the far East (2 202 705 ha) and Siberian (2 110 772 hectares) Federal districts. Dubbed “Avialesookhrana” figure of 4.6 million hectares of burnt forests and forest lands — final this year, the Director of the forest program at world wildlife Fund (WWF) Nikolai Shmatkov, although large changes in the data, most likely, will not happen.

The real extent of the fires may be understated, according to environmentalists. Experts of Greenpeace Russia noted that the area of burnt forests and forest lands in 2017 could reach 8.3 million hectares — is almost twice the official statistics. This data provides Information system of remote monitoring of forest fires by the Federal Agency of forestry (remote monitoring-Rosleskhoz).

Greenpeace say that this year the difference between the official data and the actual magnitude is not as great as in previous years: “In 2017 for the first time in history the major part of forest fires dramatically the burning regions of the North, Siberia and the Far East, entered the official operational reporting”.

Svetlana Pavlova / TASS


With this conclusion agrees the expert Nikolay Shmatkov, WWF: “Over the last ten years is the most objective figure of the state statistics in the assessment of the extent of forest fires. There are some discrepancies with the data of space monitoring of selected areas is most clearly seen, for example, in the Irkutsk region. But while this is the closest to the actual figure”.

Environmentalists Greenpeace called the concealment of data on forest fires in Russia, the most common way to “fight” with the elements. The data are distorted many times and for many years, so this year is an understatement of the truth only two times already perceived as honesty.

“Nobody in the world hides its head in the sand”

It is the desire of various departments to embellish the real picture and is the reason for the increasing forest fires, says Nikolay Shmatkov: “Let this figure is high, it will be frightening to someone. We have all state planning, financing, budget allocation and more anyway based on the official statistics — no data non-governmental organizations, not on some expert evaluations. If we constantly lie to each other and try to improve the statistics, because I do not want to show forest fires, then we find ourselves in a vicious circle: on the suppression and prevention of no money, because this problem is officially undervalued. From this circle the only way out is: it leads the state statistics in line with reality and soberly assess the problem.”

At the same time, the expert notes that the forest fires of such magnitude is not a unique phenomenon: a similar situation exists in the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries. “This is due to climate change, due to the fact that it is not always possible to effectively conduct preventive work with the population, due to the damage of trees by pests. But no one in the world, unlike the us (until this year), head in the sand does not hide: now, more than half of the budget of the US forest service is spent on prevention and fight against forest fires, and this figure is growing from year to year. Serious problems make the right conclusions”, — says Nikolay Shmatkov.

The official results of the fire season 2017 will be announced closer to November — and this figure has a chance to be almost true.

“Not enough to put signs up “Save the forest from fire” and draw perishing in the fire of the animals — it’s already been at no effect”

In August, the head of “FFA” Ivan Valentine estimated projected material damage from forest fires in 2017 9.5 billion rubles. This figure is still very far from the truth, says Nikolay Shmatkov: “it is Not clear in what method this figure was calculated — I think that it is understated, and serious. Emotionally I understand why it’s done — gonna be scary to voice the real figure, because it is several times more than what was voiced. I would like to understand what methodology was carried out the calculation: take into account the direct damage of all the deceased timber have been included here assessing lost ecosystem services offered by the forest.”

According to estimates of head of the forestry Department of Greenpeace Russia Alexey Yaroshenko, voiced by Ivan Valentina figure may be understated by more than two hundred times, but in reality, material damage may reach amounts of up to one trillion rubles.

According to “Avialesookhrana”, most strongly the element this summer was raging in Siberia: Yakutia burned 1.6 million acres of forests and forest lands in Irkutsk oblast — 967 thousand hectares in the Krasnoyarsk territory — 510 thousand hectares. This situation is not normal for this region, Shmatkov explains: “the Number of fires this year was much higher than usual. This is due to weather anomalies, and underfunding of the forest sector, with poorly maintained preventive work. Weather as always is the determining factor.”

Existing methods of forest fire prevention can no longer work effectively, says Nikolay Shmatkov: “Here the problem is primarily in working with the population. Forest harness not enemies of the people and not pests: forest fires occur either at the wrong forest management (e.g. incineration of wood residuals), or because of the tourists and hunters who left unquenched fires. This typical causes of forest fires, and agricultural burning and burning of dry grass or hooligan arson. Methodological and preventive work we have not kept. Not enough to put signs up “Save the forest from fire” and draw perishing in the fire of the animals — it’s already been at no impact”.

In Russia for several years there was a program for the prevention of fires, in which professionals working with the population, says Shmatkov. However, it was conducted only in a few regions immediately after the large fires around Moscow in 2010 and lasted just a few years — when the elements subsided, the program quickly curled: “many other countries have developed program for the prevention of forest fires at the municipal level. Something similar happened, but now it goes, and in Siberia, in my opinion, this work was never conducted. You need to go down to the local level, at the level of villages and suburban settlements and work with almost every person. This requires skilled personnel, understanding who’s doing this — the Ministry of agriculture, MOE or “FFA”, what is the responsibility of municipal authorities for that. All of this should be considered and linked into a single program, and while this is not the problem of forest fires we can’t solve.”

Anna Ivanenko


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