By Paul Goble
Because of global warming and the impact of current land use policies, Russia must now fight forest fires almost year around, Grigory Kuskin of Greenpeace Russia says. Moscow has been increasing spending on its fire-fighting units but even Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin concedes that “the situation remains complicated.”
When the fire fighting season was shorter, Russian officials at all levels were able to use the quiet times to recover; but now, they must fight fires every month and that is having a negative impact on their ability to do so (vedomosti.ru/society/articles/2022/08/15/936136-dobavili-tushenie-pozharov and severreal.org/a/dorogi-net-dyshat-nechem-anomalnye-pozhary-na-severe-rossii/32015834.html).
And it is not just that enormous areas are burning throughout the year but that these fires are both caused by and leading to a further drying up of rivers on which Russia depends for transportation in many places but also are having a negative impact on public health, given the smoke from them, and on the economy, because they are blocking roads.
Moscow has more than doubled the amount of money it devoted to fire-fighting in 2022 from six billion to 14.2 billion rubles (900 million to two billion US dollars); and Mishustin has now pledged to increase that figure by another 1.5 billion (20 million US dollars). Kuskin welcomes the increase. But given the size of the problem, it may not be enough.
(For background on Russia’s wild fires and the problems social, economic and political they present, see windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2019/08/siberian-fires-burning-away-last-of.html, windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/08/russians-alarmed-by-us-study-showing.html, and windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2021/08/catastrophic-fires-in-siberia-and.html.)