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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Government to Target Industrial Polluters

Itar-TassIndustrial factories poison towns across Russia, often killing plant life and causing people to complain of breathing problems.
Russia plans its first laws to crack down on industrial polluters this year, and will force offending companies to invest in clean technology rather than pay fines, according to the Natural Resources Ministry said.

Natural Resources Minister Yury Trutnev said it was time to rein in Soviet-era industries. His comments were published as part of the government's plans for next year on the official web site (www.pravitelstvo.gov.ru).

Towns across Russia are poisoned by factories. At the most polluted sites, such as the Arctic town of Norilsk, plant life is dead for kilometers around the smokestacks and people complain of breathing problems and other symptoms.

"We talk a lot about ecological problems, but the state has no real levers of influence in this area," Trutnev said in the published comments.

"Therefore the Natural Resources Ministry has taken the decision to create the first legal initiatives in this extremely sensitive sphere with the aim of creating ... a single ecological code."

Russia's factories are at best 2 1/2 times less energy efficient than their European competitors, and the new laws would aim to reduce pollution.

"The first step would have to be the creation of a system encouraging our main polluters -- industrial concerns -- not to pay fines but invest money in modernizing production to meet ecological demands," Trutnev said.

Environmental groups say Russia has done little since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 to clean up industry that, in communist times, aimed only to maximize production. Trutnev confirmed that combating pollution would be difficult.

"Since this question affects all of Russian industry, we must approach it cautiously and thoroughly. I think that already in the second quarter of 2005, a series of legal initiatives will be sent for the Cabinet to examine."

Some Russian firms have pinned hopes on mechanisms spelled out in the Kyoto pact on climate change, which aim to encourage foreign firms to invest to cut pollution.

In other plans, Trutnev said the ministry would aim to build more roads to increase logging access to forests, build new reservoirs to improve water supply and boost oil exploration -- something he said oil companies were neglecting.

"It is not a secret that the country is divided into spheres of influence between the big oil companies. As a result, the state does not receive much cash from auctions. We will resolve this problem together with the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service."