Thursday, August 11, 2011

The current situation with Russian wildfires

The year 2010 was disastrous for Russian forests but this year looks to be even worse as more than 1m hectares of forest have already gone up in flames, or are still burning.

The main trigger behind these wildfires are massive heat waves and the most affected area has been the far north of Russia. In the Arkhangelsk and the Komi republic more than 80 wildfires were reported in last week of July, triggered by large temperatures over 35C.

The situation isn't much better at far east of Russia too. In the first week of August there were already more than 50 reported wildfires and the most affected area was around Khabarovsk, Yakutsk and the island of Sakhalin.

In Southern Russia people were evacuated in several of the villages because of the extremely high temperatures, over 40C, which have already started in July.

Since Russia is extremely densely forested wildfires are inevitable risk but this doesn't excuse weak efforts from Russian government. There has been very little planning on how to prevent and combat wildfires, especially after the 2006 when Vladimir Putin decided to transfer responsibility from federal government to local authorities. This plan hugely backfired because of corruption and insufficient regional budgets.

Last year Russia finally agreed to establish larger funds for monitoring forest fires but this has been of very little use because the administration's efforts have been anything but equal to this important task.

The lack of equipment, human resources and funds is still more than obvious in Russia but Russian government still hasn't called for help from other countries.

The only good news in this whole story is that the currently favorable weather conditions are making life easier in the Moscow area as temperatures are coming to more normal levels. This however will not solve this issue, but only postpone it.

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