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New Map Shows Ecological Blackspots

Published: November 21, 2012 (Issue # 1736)



  • Dozens of complaints have already been submitted to the website, mostly over water pollution and illegal garbage sites.
    Photo: ALEXANDER BELENKY / SPT

A new online environmental monitoring project aims to fight corruption and challenge the regional authorities. Conceived by the Russian Geographic Society together with RIA-Novosti news agency, the nationwide multimedia project is titled “The Ecological Map of Russia.”

The detailed map was launched in October and can be viewed at http://ria.ru/ecorating. Updated round the clock seven days a week, it allows environmentalists in each region to draw attention to ecological blackspots as well as unfolding disasters. Internet users can post information about accidents, pollution, illegal garbage sites and violations of environmental laws on the website, and also upload photos and videos as proof of their allegations.

“It is not uncommon for regional authorities to ignore people’s complaints for ages and stick their letters in a pile in their offices,” said Lina Zernova, editor-in-chief of the Ecology and Law environmental magazine, speaking at the project’s presentation on Monday.

Reports from green-minded members of the public complement the basic data that is collected by the project’s organizers, whose aim is to create a rating of the Russian regions. To award a position in the rating, experts assess a range of factors affecting the state of the environment, including air and water pollution, changing ecosystems, the production and treatment of industrial waste, environmental protection efforts, accountability by local business communities and the endangered status and extinction of animal species.

Pressure groups across Russia have welcomed the initiative as encouraging transparency and igniting public debate on environmental issues.

“The map makes it possible to make a region’s problems very visual: Locations of major accidents or very polluted areas will turn red at high speed if activists submit their reports,” Zernova said. “The officials in these regions will have a hard time explaining why they have been lax in dealing with these issues. I am convinced this project has huge potential, and could really improve the situation.”

Dozens of reports have already been submitted to the website. Most of the complaints regard illegal garbage sites and water pollution.

Environmental non-governmental organizations say that the map, if regularly and thoroughly updated, could create a substantial and sweeping impression of the ecological situation in Russia.

“Many ordinary Russians are not even aware of the existence of certain towns where people suffer from devastating environmental disasters,” said Yevgeny Schwartz, director of environmental protection policies at the Russian branch of the World Wildlife Foundation. “Having reviewed the first wave of complaints, we can easily see some of the ailing issues that exist across the country, such as, the rampant destruction of forest and other green areas in order to vacate space for expensive construction projects,” he said.

Sergei Vinogradov, chairman of the Green Front ecological non-governmental organization, said the map would enable regional environmental activists to join forces, helping ordinary people to find solutions and win victories.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.



Wednesday, Jan. 28



Feel like becoming a publishing mogul? Stop by the Freedom anti-cafe at 7 Ulitsa Kazanskaya today at 8 p.m. where Simferopol, Crimea-based founder and chief editor of the Holst online magazine will talk about creating an internet magaine, including what stories to cover, how find an audience and build a team, where to find inspiration and how to stand out from the crowd. Admission is the normal price of the anti-café — 2 rubles per minute, which includes tea and snacks.



Learn everything you always wanted to know about wine, and perhaps a bit more, at the Le Nez du Vin seminar for wine lovers. Held at the WineJet Sommelier School, 100 Bolshoy Prospekt Petrograd Side, at 7:30 p.m., the event will cover wine production, the basics of wine tasting, the concept of terroir and the various countries where wine is produced. Tickets are 750 rubles and include a wine tasting. Register by calling +7 921 744 6264.



Thursday, Jan. 29



Attend a master class on how to deal with complicated business negotiations today at the International Banking Institute, 6 Malaya Sadovaya Ulitsa. Running from 3 to 6 p.m., Vadim Sokolov, an assistant professor at the St. Petersburg State University of Economics, will introduce aspects of managing the negotiation process and increasing its effectiveness. Attendance is free with pre-registration by telephone on 909 3056 or online at www.ibispb.ru



Celebrate what would be writer Anton Chekov's 155th birthday at the Bokvoed bookshop at 46 Nevsky Prospekt. Starting at 5 p.m., the legendary author will be feted with readings of his stories and short performances based on his plays by various St. Petersburg actors. Chekov's book will also be offered at a 15% discount during the event.





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