The housing sector for the first time has overtaken industry, agriculture and chemicals as the main source of water pollution in Russia, according to Professor Viktor Danilyan, director of water at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
This finding highlights the dramatic changes that have taken place in the Russian economy in recent years, and the effects these changes are having on the environment.
It also demonstrates the importance of the government’s Clean Water program, which is now in the implementation phase after a protracted legislative process.
At a March 13 press conference, Danilyan contrasted Russia’s economy in 1980 with that of today.
Then, heavy industry was a much larger and more important sector due to the Soviet Union rejecting global trade. These types of goods today tend to be imported from abroad.
Similarly, the chemical industry was much larger than it is now, and produced a vast amount of toxic waste.
Environmental concerns were never a priority for the Communist leadership, and the scars left by chemical plants in various parts of the country remain burned into the landscape and pose a noxious threat to this day.
Agriculture remains a significant part of the Russian economy, but new techniques and tighter regulations mean that fewer chemicals are used in the production of crops.
These cleaner fields have significantly less run-off than was previously the case, causing less damage to the surrounding environment and water assets.
However, the role of housing in the Russian economy is quite different. The sector was once dominated by state provision, and it met only people’s most basic needs.
Now, as in most economically developed countries, housing is a consumer good and status symbol for Russians.
Although the population of Russia has declined since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the number of homes has increased dramatically.
Beyond simple numbers, two further trends contributing to pollution from housing in recent years have been a serious lack of investment in sewage facilities to cope with increased demand and corrupt developers who do not even bother to connect new housing to the sewage network.