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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Official Calls Half of Russia 'Ecologically Unacceptable'

Russia is so polluted it would have to spend its entire national income for many years to clean up the environmental hazards threatening its citizens' health, the government's top environmental official said Friday.

He said many of Russia's problems were inherited from the Soviet era, when smokestacks were a symbol of progress. But outdated factories still pose a risk.

"We consider about half the territory of the Russian Federation to be ecologically unacceptable, where pollution threatens health," said Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, head of the State Committee for the Environment. "A complete cleanup of the environment would cost many times more than the annual gross domestic product," he said.

"The problem of radioactive waste, at a minimum, would cost $700 billion," he said. "To clean up the drinking water supply would cost about $200 billion."

Russia's GDP in 1996 was about $400 billion.

The environmental problem is especially acute in Moscow because of pollution from cars. Other trouble spots include the Ural mountains, a center of metallurgy and heavy industry, as well as areas of the north and Far East where outdated factories pump out pollution.

On a daily basis, the most serious pollution problem facing Russians is the surface water supply, which Danilov-Danilyan said is unsatisfactory for 60 percent of the population.

Among nuclear waste problems, Danilov-Danilyan said the area around the Mayak reactor in Chelyabinsk posed a particular danger.

As an example of the threat he cited a once-secret 1957 accident in which tons of radioactive waste stored near Chelyabinsk spread across much of the Urals region after an explosion in a nuclear waste storage site.

Another vexing environmental problem that Danilov-Danilyan described is the destruction of 40,000 tons of chemical weapons pledged by Moscow under international agreements.