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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Turning Over a New Leaf

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At certain times of the year, both city authorities and ordinary citizens act illogically. Take spring for example. The snow has hardly melted away and the soil dried out before a dense cloud of smoke starts creeping across the country. This happens when people, and sometimes municipal authorities, are seized by a passion to burn fallen leaves and grass. This custom cannot be observed anywhere else in the developed world. It is also quite harmful to the environment.

There is different problem when fall arrives. In contrast to the mass burnings of leaves in the spring, Moscow is overcome by a craze to gather the leaves. They are raked up throughout the city, loaded into bags and hauled off in trucks to some unknown location where, I am confident, they are turned into fertilizer.

Moscow's citywide campaign of gathering leaves was in full force again this year. But authorities could not do away with every last leaf due to the this year's Indian summer followed by long periods of rainfall. There's no need to worry, though -- the authorities will simply burn the leftover leaves next spring.

To my surprise, I saw street sweepers using highly advanced, industrial-size blowers for the first time ever in Moscow this year. You have probably seen these "vacuum cleaners in reverse." They are used everywhere on streets in the West. Now these miraculous contraptions have come to Moscow.

To be honest, I have serious doubts about the necessity of ridding the city of every last leaf. Is there really nothing else to spend the public's money on, especially with next year's budget deficit for the city is expected to reach billions of rubles?

I can understand why the highways and roads need to be cleared of leaves: Wet leaves can stop up the storm drains, and they can also make the road surface slippery and dangerous for drivers.

But why must the fallen leaves be cleared from city parks or from cozy and romantic courtyards? I long for that wonderful, fairy-tale feeling when you go to some uncrowded spot to wander around and kick the leaves about, breathing in that pleasant smell of fall foliage.

Fallen leaves are needed not only by romantics, but by the soil as well. They are vital to the ecological system. Leaves decompose quickly and harmlessly, forming humus in the soil. Humus contains important nourishing substances such as potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous -- all of which enrich the soil. Without humus, the soil hardens like asphalt, causing the plants to die from a lack of oxygen in their roots. Fallen leaves also form a biologically active substance that stimulates human lungs, making it easier for us to breathe. When the atmosphere close to ground level lacks this vital substance, it fills with city smog.

All of this information is readily available to anyone. If city authorities had even the slightest desire to approach this question from an environmental point of view, they could allow the leaves to remain in parks and courtyards and not make these areas as bare as an army parade ground. But it seems that authorities' perception of beauty is taken from army culture. According to that army mentality, the grass should be painted and the ground should be bare.

Yet this is just one more example of how city authorities lack creativity in their attempts to manage a huge city. This applies not only to gathering leaves, but to many other areas, such as resolving the problem of traffic jams.

When the authorities are so terribly void of creativity and so inept at making innovative decisions, there is little hope for achieving social progress.

Georgy Bovt is a Moscow-based political analyst.