The Russian government will correct all national projects in October. The budget of the Ecology national project will be reduced by 10% in the next two years.
What is the Ecology National Project?
The Ecology national project, which consists of 11 federal programs, appeared after the decree on national goals signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018, and was a continuation of the May 2012 decrees. The name of the project itself implies that it was created to solve environmental problems.
Initially, it was expected to be over in 2024, but now the amended national project will be valid until 2030. The new decree reduced the previous environmental goals: the provision on clean drinking water, elimination of unauthorized landfills, biodiversity conservation and ecotourism disappeared. Now the national goals summarize the objectives and group environmental problems into three main blocks: waste, water and air.
The Clean Air federal program works in 12 cities such as Bratsk, Krasnoyarsk, Lipetsk, Magnitogorsk, Mednogorsk, Nizhny Tagil, Novokuznetsk, Norilsk, Omsk, Chelyabinsk, Cherepovets and Chita. In March 2022, the project was extended to another 29 cities in Russia, which shows that the situation with clean air in our cities is clearly not improving.
The key issue with the Clean Air environmental program is that money is coming, projects are being implemented, regional authorities report back, everything is fine on TV, but it is an awful situation outside the window. At the moment, 22 Russian cities have very high levels of air pollution, and 24 cities have very high levels of air pollution.
“The topic is acute, and it worries all the subjects on the list,” said Dmitry Kobylkin, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Ecology, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection. If actions are not taken now, “we will have to think about where to move people” from towns with extremely high levels of air pollution, says Kobylkin.
In his turn, Vladimir Burmatov, First Deputy Chairman of the Environmental Committee of the State Duma, believes that despite the financing the changes are minimal, the corruption, inefficiency of the officials and the lie that everything is “good and flourishing,” although it is sometimes impossible to go out in the streets.
“We have succeeded, the money has arrived, and we started buying gas-powered buses and building special fueling stations, but this has not changed the situation,” said the deputy. “I have not received any letters or appeals from anyone saying that regional authorities have done everything to make air quality cleaner. For example, Chelyabinsk is a real Silent Hill. Everything is in a haze, given that we reclaimed the city's landfill for crazy money. They decided that it is good enough. When you drive up to it, you see an apocalyptic picture. People cannot breathe there for six months; [the city is] again in all the anti-rating on the environment.”
What do we have in terms of finances by October? 300 million rubles ($4,878) will be sent to Cherepovets to buy eco-friendly public transportation, which will be subtracted from the financing of Kuzbass. In 2022, 160 million rubles ($2,601.6) were not spent on construction of heating and gas supply facilities there, and 140 million rubles ($2.28 mln) on updating of summary estimates. The government will add another 306.47 million rubles ($4.98 mln) to Chita for the conversion of private households from coal-fired/stove-fired heating to gas, electric or combined heating. Such assistance to residents would be appropriate in the spring, but now there is snow outside the window, and it is unlikely that the Transbaikal residents will break their stoves and install new heating in their homes.
Earlier, the project was a part of the Ecology national project. Since 2021 it is included in the Housing and Urban Environment national project. Today more than 11 million citizens of Russia do not receive clean drinking water, and 12 million people do not have central water supply at all.
For years Russians have been yearning for clean drinking water but it is the projects that change.
“Organizations change. They collect money from people, but do not make repairs. The water is essentially technical. And we have to use it for years. Most residents buy water to drink or use for cooking. But kindergartens and schools use this poor-quality water for cooking,” write inhabitants of almost every region in social networks.
The Rehabilitation of the Volga, Conservation of unique water bodies federal projects and new programs on the Kama, Amur, Terek and other rivers will be combined under the new decree into a single federal project ‘Rehabilitation of water bodies.’
As usual, the plans are remarkable on paper. For now, the Preservation of Lake Baikal federal project will revise the indicator ‘Reduction of the total area of high and extremely high pollution’ downwards by 125,9 ha in 2023-2024.
Since the head of the Republic of Buryatia Alexei Tsydenov admitted that the project to eliminate the consequences of the negative activities of the Dzhida tungsten-molybdenum plant will be ready only by 2025. Illegal dumps in Pribaikalsky National Park (where 16.2 ha are poisoned) and Tunkinsky National Park (where 15.9 ha are poisoned) have not been eliminated either.
In the Recovery of the Volga federal project, by the end of 2022, the magicians from the Ministry of Nature decided to transfer $95.32 million from the disposal of sunken ships to the dismantling of idle pipelines of the Ozernoye water reservoir in Tatarstan already in the same 2022 (!). The total cost of this case will reach 930.48 million rubles ($15.13 mln), a part of which the Head of the Republic Rustam Minnikhanov promised to find in the budget.
At first, the main objectives of the Ecology national project consisted in liquidating 191 illegal dumps and by 2024 to increase to 36% of the amount of waste sent for disposal. In 2020, this figure did not exceed 6-7%.
According to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, in the first half of 2022, the share of solid municipal waste processing increased from 43.3% to 49%, and the share of recycling increased from 11.6% to 14.1%. By 2024, the share of recycling should reach 50% and the share of utilization – 15% although, as we remember, the plan was 36%.
These plans, as usual, are ambitious but in September the government decided to cut federal spending on waste management infrastructure in 2023-2024.
In 2023, the costs of the Complex system of solid municipal waste management federal project will be reduced by 2,1 times compared to the previous year, to 12,5 billion rubles ($203.25 mln), as reported by RBC. In 2024, the costs of this federal project will slightly increase (up to 14.07 billion rubles ($228.78 mln), but will still be half as much as provided by the current law on the budget (27.96 billion rubles ($454.63 mln).
In addition, the Clean Country federal project will turn into the “general Cleaning” in a few years, undertaking to deal not only with the fight against unauthorized dumps, but also with the lifting of abandoned ships, the rehabilitation of oil wells and industrial sites.
Once again, officials will report on the utilization of allocated funds and the increasing targets of federal projects, reporting on the pseudo hundred percent implementation of the Ecology national project, while Russians will still be choking on smog and afraid to drink the tap water.