The extent of pollution and ecological collapse in Russia is due to decades of ill-considered military and industrial development undertaken in virtual secrecy and with scant concern for the environmental and health consequences. Environmental pollution clamps a stranglehold on the big cities in Russia. Pollution in Russia now threatens the health of millions of citizens and the safety of crops, water and air. In 84 of Russia's largest cities the air pollution is ten times the accepted safety levels. In some areas, especially among children, levels of respiratory problems are 50 per cent higher than the national average. Moreover, Russia is a major contributor to global ozone depletion, being the World's largest producers and consumers of ozone depleting substances (ODS). Thus, Russia's emphasis on production at all costs has cost this country its environmental integrity. (reference)
Air pollution is a severe problem in several Russian cities. In 1999, for instance, air quality in 120 cities was recorded to be at least five times above the country's own lenient standards for at least one pollutant; eight of these cities exceeded limits for three or more pollutants. Although the industrial sector remains the major contributor to Russia's air pollution, the transportation sector is playing an increasingly important role. Motor vehicles are subject to only minimal environmental regulations, and automobile emissions in major cities, including lead, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, are major sources of air pollution.
In Moscow, for instance, automobiles cause almost 90% of air pollution, and car ownership is on the rise. Additionally, most power plants in Russia are aging and lack modern pollution control equipment, resulting in large amounts of toxic emissions and waste. Several major cities are threatened by these problems, as are delicate ecosystems. Lake Baikal serves as one example of areas threatened by pollution. The lake holds 20% of the world's freshwater and is home to 1,500 species, most of which are unique to Baikal. The lake is threatened by runoff and air pollution from both a cellulose production plant on one of Baikal's major tributaries, and a coal-fired electric power plant on another.
Source: Energy Information Agency, August 2001.
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