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Window on Eurasia — New Series: More than a Third of Russia’s Regions Face ‘Critical’ Shortage of Trash Dumps


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 Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 29 – Because of the protests at Shiyes, all Russians and much of the world know that the city of Moscow does not have enough dumps to handle its trash and hopes to dispose of an increasing share of it not by building processing plants but rather by developing new dumps far from Moscow regardless of how local people feel.

            But what is not fully appreciated by most is that the Russian Federation faces a trash apocalypse, with 32 federal subjects set to run out of dump space by 2024, and 17 of these to do so by 2022 and have no possibility of expanding, according to the Russian Audit Chamber (ach.gov.ru/upload/iblock/462/46234b3e3624fcccbb8bace5c892f2f4.pdf#page=3).

            According to one of the authors of the report, Aleksandr Men, as of last year, Russia buries “more than 90 percent” of the 65 million tons of solid waste Russians produce each year; and Moscow’s program to update its trash processing program has failed across the board, not only in the capital but in the regions.

            There are several developments in addition to these that are pushing the situation toward disaster, Men adds. Many of the private firms who handle trash for 15.1 million people in 19 subjects he surveyed are at the brink of bankruptcy or for other reasons are planning to stop providing these services.

            At present, the report says, funding for trash disposal comes from direct payments by individuals and companies; but these flows are so lacking in transparency that much of the money that should have been going to handle trash in recent years has been spent on other purposes – and much additional funding must be found to make up for these losses.

            One response of some regions has been to open illegal dumps. As of last year, the Audit Chamber found, there were more than 27,000 of these covering an area of 13,000 hectares. Of these, only a fraction, covering 1600 hectares, were closed down (eastrussia.ru/news/schetnaya-palata-musornye-poligony-v-buryatii-i-na-kolyme-perepolnyatsya-cherez-mesyats/).

            What all this means is that the controversy still swirling around Shiyes is the tip of a very large iceberg and that many more conflicts are likely to intensify to the point of conflict among regions and between regions and Moscow over the next several years, possibly becoming as the Shiyes case has a political cause. 

Window on Eurasia — New Series