It is known that Russia is the largest country in the world. It stretches from east to west and from north to south for 17 million square km. Therefore, to speak about ecological problems we need to remember that it is unique for each region.
What do you know about the Russian Far East? Taiga, bears and tigers? Sure. But, also, the Far East – place I come from - is one of the richest in natural resources region in Russia. Gold, coal, oil, silver, platinum, molybdenum, tungsten, copper, zinc are mined there. Yakutiya, which is the coldest place in the world with constantly living population, is rich in diamonds. Moreover, the Far East, coming alone from the North-West part of Russia, is one of the most biological-rich temperate forest zones in the world. These are: taiga on the north, mixed and deciduous forests on the south. The Far East's territory occupies 40% of Russia's territory but only 6 mln people live here (out of 146 mln of the whole population of Russia). So, it is logical to assume that the ecology of the region did not suffer from much hard. But the ecological situation in the cities, where the majority of the region's population lives, leaves much to be desired.
The Federal Forest Service estimates that the region has about 1.75 billion m3 of commercial timber (70 percent coniferous). Much of the commercially valuable timber is on the southern half of the region, and accessible areas have been heavily exploited and exposed to fire. As the forest is not only a valuable product, but a habitat for different species of animals and plants, composing complicate ecosystem, it's necessary to provide it with protection. Timber export is the main budget item in the region, and it is quite predictable because global demand for wood and timber products has increased dramatically.
Every year a special commission determines a quota for logging. And every year the export exceeds the mentioned quota. Most of the export consist of raw logs and goes to China. By the way, it comes back in form of furniture and of course, costs much more ultimately than the raw material. Although the police regularly catch poachers, the fight against illegal logging is quite slow. Usually, people explain their actions as lack of money and only way for earning something in rural areas– selling out the forest.
Another huge problem is forest fires. When the weather is finally warm, thousands of people turn their attention to garden and picnics. Any inadvertently forgotten ember, and a gust of wind can burn a thousands hectares of forests. Every year people are warned about importance of attentive attitude towards the forest, but all the same every year several areas are suffering from smoke.
Khabarovsk, my hometown, is located on the bank of the Amur river – one of the largest rivers in the world, with huge variety of wildlife. In 2005 as a result of accident in a chemical factory in China, 100 tons of benzene washed away to the Sungari – inflow of the Amur. Since then it is prohibited to swim in the Amur, to drink unboiled water. Therefore, many people buy bottled water for cooking or set filters to clean it.
As you can see, in the majority of cases, contamination and pollution occurs from people.
Thus, in my mind, the biggest ecological problem of the Far East is an indifference of people. The only way to keep unique environment of the region is to raise awareness among the local community. For example, for now, we have some rubbish collection campaigns. I believe that in the nearest future people will realize the necessity of careful attitude toward nature.
Diana Podgurskaia, EVS volunteer