Flora and fauna may no longer be the only things endangered by the lack of a green strategy in some Russian regions.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has decreed that local governors’ job performance be assessed in part on their environmental record.
The federal government will carefully measure the effectiveness of the region’s eco-politics.
Officials will recount local emissions and measure them again recommended thresholds. They will also assess the quality of water and soil, as well as check if local factories are using eco-friendly technology.
It is also planned to monitor the spending of regional budget funds allocated for environmental programs.
The idea was first voiced by President Dmitry Medvedev in his annual address to the Federal Assembly in 2010.
“The quality of the environment should be the most important indicator of the quality of life and one of the main indicators of the territory’s socio-economic development,” Medvedev said. “Consequently, it should be a criterion to measure the efficiency of local authorities. I order the heads of all regions to present annual reports on the environmental situation in their regions. The people of those regions should have complete and true information about that.”
Environmentalists have largely welcomed the move, which they say is the first attempt to address the set of urgent environmental issues since 1989.
“Any moves in this direction are progress,” Public Chamber member Vladimir Zakharov told the Kommersant newspaper.
These moves, experts say, may also help bring a range of big environmental issues under regional control. Now they are largely dealt with by the federal authorities, which have considerably hampered any attempts to deal with them.
“The government does not have the capacity to manage by itself the environmental situation in the regions,” Ivan Blokov, campaign director of Greenpeace Russia, told RT. “Surprisingly, many big rivers, such as the Moskva River, Neva or Lena, are totally under the control of the federal authorities. So you can make these rivers cleaner only by altering federal legislation. If you are not doing that, all your attempts will be ineffective.”
At the same time, environmental specialists doubt that the chosen criteria will be effective enough.
“The indicators listed are traditional and uninformative,” UN expert and Moscow University professor Sergey Bobylev was quoted as saying by Kommersant. “They don’t have several vitally important points, such as people’s health.”