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Pasko: Dvorishchi ain’t no Cape Town

The last week of October was a tense time for the bureaucrats at Minprirody, Russia’s Ministry for the Protection of the Environment and Natural Resources, and naturally for Minister Yuri Petrovich Trutnev. He went all the way to Cape Town, South Africa to participate in the work of the eighth session of the mixed intergovernmental committee for trade and economic cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Africa.

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From there, a mad dash to Namibia, to a meeting with Namibian President H. Pohamba and Prime Minister N. Angula, as well as with first president S. Nujoma and Minister of Mines and Energy E. Nghimtina.

And it wasn’t questions of karate or maybe tourism that they were discussing. Nosirree! They’ve got more big league problems than that: atomic energy, communications, geological study, exploration and extraction of uranium, precious stones and other useful minerals.


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While this was going on, subordinates of Yuri Petrovich were labouring strenuously in Cologne, Germany at Entsorga Enteco, the global environment fair. There, they introduced fair attendees to the projects of the Ministry with respect to waste processing and environmental protection initiatives underway in Russia, as well as the ecological policy of Minprirody of Russia.

It goes without saying that after this hard work they continued to labour with no less zeal: studying the experience of their foreign colleagues’ work in waste processing, particularly in the application of garbage-incinerating installations. That is, first they showed their experience with garbage disposal, then they studied others’ experience. The problem of garbage is, after all, the most important environmental issue in the world after climate change, of course. But climate change is scheduled to be taken up in December, in Copenhagen. For now, Namibia, South Africa, Germany turned out to be a hard week. The echoes had barely died out from Russo-Finnish meetings – consultations on Nord Stream, during the course of which “the parties exchanged information on the results of national consultations within the framework of the Espoo Convention, as well as discussing questions associated with the exchange of results of monitoring the surrounding environment in the course of the exploitation of the Nord Stream gas pipeline.” (I just adore official language…exchanged information connected with the exchange of information).

Hard work they’ve got, those state protectors of nature. Not a minute, you understand, of peace. One moment it’s Africa, the next, Europe. One moment it’s garbage, the next, diamonds. Or uranium. Or gases…

And so it goes, day after day, year after year. Is it a joke to say the Entsorga Enteco exhibition was being conducted not for the first time already? And every time, one had to prepare for it with the sweat of one’s brow, not sparing one’s life. Yes indeed! Like slaves on a galley! At times they got so tired, no doubt, the poor souls, that at home, after a tense day at work, they couldn’t even talk about anything with their household. All thoughts only about “the struggle with industrial waste and their reutilization on the basis of the newest scientific elaborations, the recultivation of lands, the return to health of the air medium, the use of waste in the capacity of a source of thermal energy, the production of secondary fuel on the basis of wastes and household garbage, the struggle with exhaust gases, the treatment and reutilization of waste industrial and other waters, the cleaning of city streets of snow, the rehabilitation of agricultural lands, industrial districts and residential quarters, the greening of cities and industrial areas, the struggle with noises in residential and industrial zones…

…I could just go on and on reading away to my heart’s content all the citations from the official site of Minprirody about the labour accomplishments of the bureaucrats of this agency, but there is not enough time. I need to travel to the village of Dvorishchi of Vladimir Oblast, where for well nigh 10 years already a gigantic garbage dump shows no sign of getting any smaller. Local officials had told me that they are allocated a whole whopping 50,000 rubles a year (approximately US$1,725) from the budget for garbage affairs. Knock yourself out, do whatever you want with them. They ask to help resolve the problem, at least by covering it in the mass information media.

And here’s something else they’re writing: the largest settlement of Krasnoturyinsk (Sverdlovsk Oblast) – Rudnichny – is suffering an ecological disaster. In the words of local residents, today the population center looks like one big scrap heap. Mountains of garbage spontaneously appear beside residential houses, on the sides of rights-of-way, with each passing day attracting ever more rats and aggressive vagrant dogs.

Residents of neighbouring houses in my Maryino ask to sort things out with the vans next to Auchan – they poison the air so much that it’s impossible to open a vent window. (The French-owned Auchan hypermarket has a large number of foul-smelling small trucks idling in its parking lot waiting for customers who are purchasing large items to take home).

Acquaintances telephoned and asked whether the Moscow powers intend to shut down, at last, the oil refinery in Kapotna? The stink is really strong.

And that man is standing over there in the doorway with instruments to analyse tap water. He says the allowable norms for chlorine and iron are strongly exceeded. This little problem too ought to be studied.

I, of course, would like to ask these and other homegrown questions (not to be exported) of Yuri Petrovich Trutnev or his bureaucrats. There was a thought to call them to come with me to Dvorishchi or Krasnoturyinsk. But I think they don’t have the time, they’re perpetually busy with important state and inter-governmental affairs. And besides, Dvorishchi is no Cape Town. What if they don’t like it there? It’s somewhat dirty, somewhat poor, instead of roads, just directions, and garbage, garbage. I hadn’t noticed any precious stones and other useful minerals there.

It’s the bureaucrats who’ve got the real problems: the atom, uranium, diamonds, gas, oil…

And we, good-for-nothings, dig around in our garbage, with difficulty inhaling our own dear fatherland’s smoke all mixed together with industrial emissions and chasing all this down with chlorinated water. No, we won’t bother them, let ’em keep on labouring away.

Here’s an interesting thought: does chlorine get into vodka?

Don’t mind me, I’m just thinking aloud, that’s all.

Some numbers:

In the 2002 budget, bureaucrats for business trips abroad were supposed to get 530 million rubles, or 1.4 times more than in 2001. The entire protection of Russian nature and ecology cost approximately the same amount (580 million rubles). But for transporting children who had run away from families and boarding schools, the state released 50 million rubles, 10 times less than for bureaucratic junkets.

In 2005, 823.5 million rubles were released for “implementation of state ecological control, monitoring, organisation and maintenance of state nature reserves, as well as for continuation of the financing of measures with respect to the protection of Lake Baikal and other federal nature-protection measures.”

The overall volume of expenses for federal agencies in accordance with the draft budget for 2010 will comprise 71.7 billion rubles. In 2008 70 billion rubles were spent on ministries and departments.

According to data from mass media reports, in 2009 there was one ministry that did manage to reduce the number of business trips beyond the border. You’ll laugh, but it was the ministry of foreign affairs.

Per diem allocations in US dollars during business trips:

Germany – $65
France – $65
China – $67
Kazakhstan – $55
Turkmenia – $65
Russia – $3.44 (100 rubles).