Russia’s way of reforms – an ecologist’s point of view (Great concern of environmentalists: development towards a better future or on the account of future?)
The state of environment in Russia did not significantly improve in last 10 years. In the five-year period (1991-1995) industrial production decreased by more than a half, while emission of secondary products, average annual concentrations of suspended particles, sulfur dioxide, ammonia and benzo(a)pyrene in the atmosphere decreased only by 12-25%. At the same time, concentrations of carbon dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, and phenol increased by 2-7%.
In 284 Russian cities the level of air pollution measured at 664 monitoring stations in 1995 changed insignificantly in comparison with previous years. Average annual concentrations of dust, nitrogen dioxide, phenol, hydrogen fluoride reached 1 maximum allowable concentration (MAC) (according to Russian environmental standards), that of bisulphide of carborn constituted more than 2 MAC, those of formaldehyde and benzo(a)pyrene exceeded 3 MAC and 1 MAC correspondingly.
Pollution of surface waters still remains a serious problem. In 1996 the volume of sewerage waters purified according to the accepted standards constituted 2.6 km3 or only about 10% of all the waters that required purification (24.5 km3). It resulted from overloading and low efficiency of available sewerage plants.
The rate of constructing new discharge water plants slowed down. Less sewerage plants were put into operation in the last 4 years than in 1980 alone. Similarly, less gas filters were installed in the last 5 years than in any 2 years of the previous decade.
One of the key changes occurring in perestroika years was a dramatic increase in the number of personal cars that unavoidably increased air pollution. The number of personal cars almost doubled in 5 years since 1990, while national car production decreased by a quarter.
Russia still produces leaded gasoline (48.8% as of first half of 1996). As a result, the problem of air, soil, and food pollution with dangerous lead compounds remains as topical as it was 20 years ago in other developed countries.
While the share of nature conservation programs in federal budget in last years increased 2 times, the total amount of these funds dropped by 3 times as compared to those in 1990. In 1997 only 0.1% of gross national product was used for this purpose.
When evaluated according to the international standards, since 1991 Russian gross national product remains at the level typical for small countries such as Netherlands, Turkey, Australia or Korea. It has been several times lower than in Germany, France or Great Britain and 20 times lower than in the USA.
Living standards of the population as a whole deteriorated significantly. Incomes of the third of Russian population in 1992 were lower than cost of living and even after 5 years 22% of total population (more than 30 million people) remain beyond the poverty line.
Within 6 years since 1990 the total area of newly built apartments in the country decreased almost by a half, although their average size increased by 1.5 times and exceeded 70 m2 of total area. General destitution of the population in this complicated historical period was accompanied by appearance of exorbitantly wealthy people. Income difference between the richest and the poorest social groups exceeded the tenfold limit acceptable in democratic countries. General instability and high crime rate in the everyday life resulted in exorbitant increase of proportion of mortality from accidents and murders.
Extensive privatization of small and later large factories and businesses began in 1991. It turned into almost total sale of all previously federally owned property. So, by 1996 only 4.4% of industrial enterprises remained in federal and municipal property, although privatization still continued in 1997.
Remaining state-owned industrial enterprises provided 10.4% of total production, while 87.1% of private enterprises were able to provide just 25.2 % of total production. Trying to solve short-term problems, we borrow from our future oil, natural gas, and mineral resources under the naïve assumption that these recourses are plentiful in Russia since its territory is so huge. The statistics tells us the opposite. Stock of oil, natural gas, coal, and minerals are quite limited (see the article by Sudo and Kazankova in this issue), and they turn out to be very small when calculated per capita if we account for internal needs of such a huge country.
The economic system re-structuring in Russia would be undoubtedly more effective and less arduous if an elaborated program existed from the very beginning. Naïve belief into a necessarily positive outcome of development under market economy conditions prevents the society from concentrating its efforts on searching the ways of survival. It is assumed that private property itself facilitates stabilization and progress. As a result, fast accumulation of personal wealth continues to dominate over long-term interest
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