President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, Mr Donskoy.
The year is drawing to a close but measures to protect the environment are never ending. How is 2017, which was designated the Year of the Environment, progressing and what plans do you have to round it up?
Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergei Donskoy: Mr President, before I begin talking about the Year of the Environment, I would like to thank you on behalf of the environmental and conservation community for taking this decision and declaring 2017 the Year of the Environment. Now we can say that the topic we raised and one that is being discussed very widely has grown to a really large scale. Around 20 million people are estimated to have participated in various Year of the Environment events.
In fact, this became possible thanks to consolidation at all levels, the government and the public. If I were to give you an example, I can mention any of the major international events in Russia. The St Petersburg Economic Forum, the forums in Sochi, Krasnoyarsk and Vladivostok, all had a section on the environment and raised rather pressing subjects for discussion. Of course, we need to acknowledge the media’s extensive involvement, as well as their coverage of all the events throughout the year, which elevated them to a much higher level of awareness.
I would like to note that it was this year that some major infrastructure-related conservation projects have started. Around 500 billion rubles will be eventually spent on these projects, including 105 billion this year. Norilsk Nickel has closed some production facilities and increased its hydrogen sulfide trapping capacities. RT-Invest is involved in preparations for building incineration plants. Many other companies have launched their large-scale projects this year.
Another aspect I would like to mention is the reform of the waste management system. Actually, we have already launched this reform, which should begin everywhere in 2019. Many regions and companies are already implementing this system.
We highlight the separation and recycling of household waste. I would like to say also that a decision taken this year prohibits the burial of some types of waste that can be recycled. The idea is to prohibit the burial of scrap metal in 2018 and plastics, plastic packaging plus several other sorts of waste in 2019. From then on, we will be prohibiting the burial of some other kinds of waste. They should be returned for recycling, which calls for the development of waste sorting.
Vladimir Putin: We also need to create additional capacities.
Sergei Donskoy: Yes, quite so. It is a general trend, which involves the creation of new capacities and a commitment to waste recycling. This is one of the topics on our table this year.
In addition, we expect the 2014 law on a waste recycling system to be amended to clarify the principles for the introduction of waste sorting. It is an important task and something all environmentalists should be focusing on. Of course, it will take more than a year to introduce a waste separation system, but we must complete the legal framework for doing this already this year.
Vladimir Putin: Listen, you need to work in close rapport with the regions, because we cannot close our eyes when it comes to a situation concerning waste being redirected from a landfill we have already closed and being dumped in uncontrolled amounts on unprepared grounds, sometimes even next to residential districts again. This logically provokes a negative reaction on behalf of the people.
Sergei Donskoy: Yes, Mr President. It is one of the things we must do unconditionally, because it will be very difficult to get rid of the growing amount of waste without building the necessary infrastructure.
Vladimir Putin: The principles of waste disposal and calculations are extremely important. We must restore order in this sphere. This is very important for large towns and for the Central Federal District, which incorporates Moscow and the Moscow Region. I ask that you and your colleagues consider this matter once again.
Sergei Donskoy: Yes, Mr President, we are working with the Construction Ministry on this. We have drafted amendments to the law on waste jointly with the State Duma. These amendments are being improved in the lower house, and there will be a second and a third hearing. It should be adopted this year.
Vladimir Putin: Good.
Sergei Donskoy: I would like to mention three more areas. This year, we adopted three priority projects: A Clean Country, Russia’s Wildlife and A Clean Volga River.
A Clean Country focuses on eliminating past environmental damage. This year we launched 25 projects in 13 regions, and we are to finalise 10 projects to get rid of old disposal sites, old production facilities and everything that is considered to be past environmental damage.
As for Russia’s Wildlife, its aim is developing ecotourism, and we have already picked pilot national parks where we will build the system together with investors.
And the last one. A Clean Volga River is a huge and ambitious project worth over 254 billion rubles. Of course, the money will be allocated by the federal budget, regional budgets and investors (they will provide over 100 billion rubles). The project includes building water treatment facilities and cleaning up environmental damage on the riverbanks. A lot of waste has accumulated there over the years.
In our opinion, this project will reduce Volga River pollution by 89 percent before 2025. But we need more money and efforts to do so.
And, of course, it is important that the 60 million people who live in the region will get a clean Volga River and an unpolluted environment, which must be one of the results of this project.
Vladimir Putin: Good, thank you.