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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Greening Moscow on the Cheap

If a group of Dutch consultants has its way, the Moscow region will soon protect both its environment and its budget by changing the way it dumps waste.

"The costs of cutting pollution are not that high," said Ton Jans, head of environmental care and waste management projects at the Dutch firm Grontmij Consulting Engineers.

"It's just a matter of good housekeeping."

Grontmij and the Russian environmental consulting firm Geopolis were awarded $2 million by the Dutch Economics Ministry to advise officials in the Moscow region on how to improve waste management.

According to Vladimir Telyupo, head of the regional waste management department, Moscow and its surrounding towns will produce about 18 million tons of domestic waste this year. Most of it is stored, not recycled or incinerated.

Grontmij and Geopolis will design and help set up a model waste dump in Mytishchin and help the region devise a new strategy for collecting and transporting waste, Jans said.

Grontmij will also install two pumps, at Mytishchin and at a dump in Serpukhov, for extraction of bio-gas, which forms when degradable waste starts to rot. At Mytishchin, the pump will be connected to a gas motor that will generate electricity, Jans said.

Many foreign assistance projects in Russia, designed to improve government or business practices, come to naught because of lack of funds for implementation of the suggested changes.

Telyupo said the while Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and other officials strongly supported a regional plan to upgrade the waste dumps, a budget has yet to be approved. He said he hoped that additional grants or loans could be secured from the West.

But Jans and his colleague, area manager Huub van Rooij, say even minor investments can produce major reductions in pollution of the soil, groundwater and air surrounding the dumps.

"The Moscow region cannot afford to be too ambitious," said Jans. "This will be a model project to show how you can improve waste management substantially with a low budget."

At Mytishchin, for instance, Grontmij is arguing for construction of nearly waterproof layers of clay underneath the new waste storage facility, to prevent wastewater from seeping into the soil. Clay is much cheaper and almost as reliable as the foils that are used in the West, Jans said.

Perforated tubes for pumping out bio-gas and draining water can also be obtained cheaply in Russia.

Grontmij is also doing a study of the region's waste management, and plans to call for construction of waste transfer stations just outside the city, Jans said.

Now, small trucks collect much of the region's domestic waste and take it all the way to the dump, sometimes over 100 kilometers away. At transfer stations, the waste can be loaded into trains, boats or larger trucks, saving the city money on transport, Jans said.

Most importantly, Grontmij is urging government officials to switch from collective funding of waste management to charging those who produce the waste.

"It is vital to make the producer look critically at the waste he creates," van Rooij said. "That way of thinking is completely absent here."