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Russia's Environmental Policy
The collective Russian mindset does not consider environmental issues adequately in relation to the country’s size and ability to affect the environment. Russia’s political structure encourages economic gain over environmental concern and is reflected by its citizens’ apathetic attitude towards the environment. The lack of oversight contributes to negative environmental effects and causally, negative health consequences for the public. The government has proven to be an obstacle in promoting environmental awareness, by their treatment of environmental non-governmental agencies (NGO’s).
About 60 million Russians live in areas considered to have high or very high air pollution. Widespread water pollution has led Russian regions’ surface water to be polluted at levels 10 times higher than the permissible level. Most of Russia’s water-bodies do not meet regulations, 12-14 percent of Russia’s lakes and rivers are ecologically clean and the quality of the groundwater is declining. Almost 30 percent of Russia’s surface water, which is used as drinking water, does not meet quality standards. Eleven percent of Russia’s residential areas contain dangerous metals. Environmental pollution is associated with cancer and asthma and other diseases, including impaired intellectual development, which thousands of Russians are suffering from.
Russia’s Environmental Policy Filtered Down to the Citizenry
Russia’s environmental policy is basically a policy of not dealing with sustainability issues. Russia places economic gains above environmental causes (a trait many governments throughout the world are culpable of). On May 17, 2000, an executive decree was put into place that dissolved Russia’s Environmental Protection Agency and further weakened their environmental policy. Environmental funding is consistently lessened as well. In 2001, funding amounted to 0.4 percent of the total federal budget. In 2008 and 2009, it was less than 0.1 percent (while the state budget has grown significantly larger).
Citizens are not receiving proper education about environmental issues; the Ministry of Education made a course in ecology an optional status in the middle and high school curriculum. The mass media is not concerned with environmental issues either, and rather than providing ample and objective information, try to conceal the facts. Thus, the importance of these issues has been lost on huge portions of the population.
Russia and Environmental Non-Governmental Organizations
In March 2013 the Russian government launched a nationwide inspection into thousands of non-governmental organizations to identify advocacy groups the government labels “foreign agents” – a derogatory term that critics say aims to stigmatize NGOs. Formally, prosecutors are checking compliance with a new law. Russian authorities say the legislation is attempting to increase the transparency and accountability of NGOs. The audits have not been received well by the international community, who see the actions as an unnecessary encroachment on civil society.
Environmental NGOs who have been audited include the Baikal Environmental Wave (Irkutsk), Yaroslavl Regional Hunters’ and Fishermen Society (Yaroslavl), Amur Environmental Club “Ulukitkan” (Blagoveshchensk), Kirov Regional Hunters’ and Fishermen Society (Kirov), Muraviovka Park of Sustainable Land Use (Amur Region), “Nature and Youth” (Murmansk) and Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus (Maykop).
The following 11 groups were given warnings: For the Nature (Chelyabinsk), Green Home (Khabarovsk), Siberian Environmental Center (Novosibirsk), SPOK (Petrozavodsk), Kola Environmental Center (Murmansk), ApatityEnvironmental Center (Murmansk region), KolaCenter for Wild Nature Defense (Murmansk), Schoolof SoulEcology “Tengri” (Gorno-Altaisk), Protected Natural Areas Association of the Altay Republic (Gorno-Altaisk), Center for Environmental Awareness-raising of the Sakha Republic (Yakutia) “Eyge” (Yakutsk) and Youth Foundation “Renaissance of the Siberian Land” (Irkutsk).
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