Measuring Sustainability in the Russian Arctic: An Interdisciplinary Study
(10905 cases) in 1998 and the greatest YOLL factor of 154687 years of life lost, compared to
31685 YOLL in Northwest, 71164 in Ural, 43204 in Western Siberia, 36132 in Eastern Siberia
and 32841 in Far-East. With mortality and morbidity caused not only by local pollution but also
by transboundary pollution, the absolute values of mortality and morbidity depend upon
population density. This explains why the city of Moscow and Moscow suburbs have elevated
levels of mortality and morbidity compared to other regions. It would be interesting to analyse
the latest levels of morbidity and mortality for the Russian regions in the context of air pollution
impact on human health.
Further adverse impacts on Arctic ecosystems may well lead to an increase in regional
or even global scale negative consequences. So the problem of further development of the
northern territories of Russia, the USA, Canada and the Scandinavian countries needs to be
solved by careful analysis of all types of ecosystem dynamics, by real-time data collection, by
the formation of national databases and by defining effective ways to coordinate the
development of both natural and anthropogenic processes (Kondratyev et al, 2003).
All recent regional state of the environment reports in the Russian Arctic indicate that air
emissions have begun to rise since recently, with inevitable health effects and deterioration of
the environment. As far as current erroneous economic strategies continue, environmental
disaster zones will take their toll of human health, and arctic hot spots are unlikely to disappear.
4.4.7 Wastewater Discharge – A Drink of Dead Water
With one of the goals of sustainable development to manage human impact on the
environment, the quality of surface water is important because it influences not only the health
of aquatic ecosystems, but also whether that water can safely be used for drinking, agriculture,
or recreation. The amount of polluting substances in surface water indicates the impact of
human settlements and land use on the environment. Therefore, it is more rational to use the
indicator “discharge of contaminated wastewater into surface reservoirs” as a core indicator of
As Table 4.29 below shows, total discharge of contaminated wastewater in Russia has
decreased steadily, by 14 per cent in 2003 compared to 1998. In 2002, the major contributors to
the contaminated wastewater discharge were housing and utilities sector (62%) and industry
(31%), the former having always been the largest sector responsible for the discharge of
contaminated wastewater (Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya, 2003). Therefore, contrary to what
is stated in that report, the long-term decline in production and closing up of industrial facilities
are not the main factors responsible for this decrease. Apart from those factors, a lot of new
wastewater treatment plants were put into operation in the recent years in Russia, including
large industrial wastewater treatment facilities.
Table 4.31. Contaminated wastewater discharge in Russia and the Russian Arctic, 1998
to 2003, million m3
1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Murmansk 300,3 362,1 429,0 370,4 365,7 338,6
Nenets 1,2 1,1 1,1 1,0 1,1 1,2
Yamal-Nenets 25,3 26,8 27,7 33,2 33,1 31,9
Taimyr 10,4 10,1 95,8 95,9 94,1 94,1
Sakha 87,4 90,7 85,3 86,8 82,9 81,3
Chukotka 6,1 5,4 5,3 5,2 5,7 4,4
Russian Arctic 430,9 496,2 644,2 592,5 582,6 551,5
Russia 21986 20657 20291 19773 19767 18961
Source: Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003)
It is worth noting, however, that the reduction in discharge of contaminated wastewater
in Russia during the 1990s has not led to the adequate improvement of the quality of surface
water. The recent reports on the state of the environment in Russia (Gosudarstvenniy doklad
Rossiya, 2001, 2002, 2003) consider Russia’s largest river basins, including Don, Kuban, Oka,
and Volga as “polluted” (3rd category of pollution), whereas most of their tributaries are
considered as “significantly polluted) or “extremely polluted” (4th and 5th categories of pollution).
As a result of further rise in anthropogenic pressure on those rivers, biotic communities in those
rivers may be strongly affected.
Large arctic river basins in Russia are affected by anthropogenic contamination as well,
with the Kola Peninsula rivers being the most polluted Russian Arctic ones. Figure 4.21
demonstrates that, although total discharge of contaminated wastewater in the Russian Arctic
tends to decrease since 2000, which is the year of the largest contaminated wastewater
discharges, it is still very high which is mostly due to the discharges in Murmansk and Taimyr.
Figure 4.21. Contaminated wastewater discharge in the Russian Arctic
1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003
Source: author’s calculations based on Gosudarstvenniy
doklad Rossiya (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003)
Compared with aggregate wastewater discharge of 430,9 million m3 in 1998, the
discharge in 2003 increased to 551,5 million m3, or by 21.9 per cent. The biggest discharge was
in 2000, with 644,2 million tonnes.
In particular, as shown in the above table, Murmansk Oblast has the highest level of
contaminated wastewater discharge among all Russian Arctic regions and the highest level of
contaminated wastewater per inhabitant. Virtually all the concentrations of pollutants exceed the
relevant MPC values. This is particularly true for oil and nitrogen ammonium in the Ob, oil and
zinc in the Yenisei and phenol in the Indigirka. During some years, MPC values may be
exceeded by factors of more than 10. The enormous levels of surface water pollution in
Murmansk and Taimyr occurred through the mining activities that caused the long-term
chemical contamination of some important watersheds at the Kola and Taimyr Peninsulas. For
example, Nyuduai river which is the most contaminated river at the Kola Peninsula is seriously
polluted with compounds of copper, nickel, manganese, and organic matter, with the MPC of
copper and nickel exceeding the background levels by a factor of 100. In Murmansk and
Taimyr, high levels of contamination pose problems of maintaining clean water supplies. In
some impact zones (e.g. Nikel, Norilsk and Monchegorsk), soil-geochemical time bombs (zones
with increased accumulation of pollutants situated in both near and far fields) are formed due to
the continuous accumulation of heavy metals at geochemical barriers. These geochemical time
bombs have been insufficiently studied and are potentially dangerous sources of future
environmental contamination (as a result of climatic change, changes in natural resource
management patterns, etc.) The mining activities in Nikel discharge approximately 50 tonnes of
nickel per year directly to the Kolosjohki River of which 40 tonnes reach the transboundary
Pasvik River (Evseev et al, 2000; Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya, 2003; UNEP, 2004).
As Evseev et al (2000) sum up, the main sources of arctic water pollution are:
contaminated continental runoff (river and surface), marine and inland water transport,
extraction of minerals from the continental shelf and long-range transport of pollutants by
marine and atmospheric currents. Priority pollutants in the Russian Arctic are: sulphur and
nitrogen oxides; heavy metals; PTS; oil and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs); radionuclides;
solid waste including sunken wood; and organochlorines (a priority for the foreign Arctic).
Oil and oil product concentrations in surface waters vary from fractions of an MPC to
several hundreds of MPC values. Pipeline ruptures frequently occur resulting from corrosion
and from being run over by vehicles with caterpillar treads. The total volume of oil annually
spilled onto the ground and into water bodies is, according to different estimates, from 3 to 10
million tonnes. As a result of accidents and leakages, the annual concentrations of oil
hydrocarbons in surface waters of western Siberia constantly lie within 10 to 30 MPC values.
Intensive contamination of surface waters is detected also outside the oil deposits and even
beyond the boundaries of oil and gas provinces including those of large rivers such as the
Pechora and Ob, the latter alone carrying more than 120,000 tonnes of oil products per year
(Vil’chek et al, 1996; Evseev et al, 2000).
However, it should be taken into account that many rivers in the Kola Peninsula contain
in their natural unpolluted state large quantities of copper, iron, and manganese, especially in
spring and summer when the rivers run shallow and are fed mainly by ground waters
(Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya, 2003).
Current measures for the rehabilitation and protection of the northern environment are
inadequate and are not commensurate with the level of human activities. Improvements in the
current situation depend upon: the use of regionally-adapted environmental and resource
protection technologies, the modernisation of production facilities, improvement of controls on
toxic compound releases and the creation of modern systems for waste treatment and recycling
(Evseev et al, 2000). Furthermore and most importantly, they depend upon the change in the
type of current economic activities both at federal and regional level and shift in economic
priorities that currently make it impossible to undertake adequate measures in starting the
progress towards sustainable development in the Russian Arctic.
4.4.8 Environmental Protection Expenditure – Spending or Aiding?
A healthy environmental situation depends to the large extent upon sufficient
environmental protection expenditure. In the light of the recent debate on sustainable
development financing, this topic is becoming more and more urgent.
However, the first and foremost obstacle for the analysis of environmental expenditure in
Russia is the data. As mentioned in the relevant methodology sheet on environmental
protection expenditure (Section 3.4), the comparable Russian data are not readily available and
in some cases are based on incomplete estimates. The total expenses for environmental
protection are not directly comparable. According to the report by DANCEE/OECD (2000) which
provided a detailed gap analysis with regard to the data on this indicator for the two northwestern
Russian regions, Novgorod Oblast and Pskov Oblast, the official Russian statistics
(forms 18-KS, 4-OS and 1-EKOFOND) do not cover all forms of environmental expenditure.
Among all gaps identified, the most important one is that the information on funding sources is
only available for investments and does not distinguish between local and regional government
level. Information on funding sources only covers three environmental media: water, air, and
land. In addition, the public sector's current expenditure and investment expenditure are not
covered, with the exception of environmental fund disbursements (but without environmental
administration cost). Finally, regional statistics on environmental expenditures are not always
available from the federal reports and not always included in the regional state of the
environment reports. Thus, publicly available historical data on environmental expenditure can
only be found for Murmansk (Gosudarstvenniy doklad Murmansk, 2003), Yamal-Nenets AO
(Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003) and Sakha (Gosudarstvenniy
doklad Sakha, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003). The rest of the Russian Arctic regions, including
Nenets AO, Taimyr and Chukotka, are not covered.
As practice shows, presenting the bare figures without allowing for a comparison of
environmental expenditure against relevant GRP does not seem an appropriate method. For
example, the above DANCEE/OECD report does not provide any information on the share of
environmental investment expenditure in GRP, indicating at the same time that “higher priority is
given to environmental expenditure in Novgorod Oblast than in Pskov Oblast”.
Nevertheless, it is interesting to find that in 1998 the bulk of public environmental
expenditure in both Novgorod and Pskov was investment in wastewater treatment (80% and
68% of total environmental expenditure respectively), followed by waste management in
Novgorod Oblast (18%) and air emission control (16%) in Pskov Oblast.
Compared to those geographically close regions, environmental expenditure in the
Russian Arctic regions showed rather different priorities. For example, in Murmansk Oblast, the
main share of environmental expenditure was air emission abatement and control (45%),
followed by the category “other environmental protection activities” (21%), wastewater treatment
(18%) and solid waste treatment (16%). Indicatively of forest-rich Murmansk, investments in
protection and rational use of forest resources were only 0.06% of total environmental
expenditure. It is unclear what components were included in the category “other environmental
In 2002, total environmental expenditure in Murmansk rose by more than 65%, with air
emission control remaining the highest priority (74%) and followed by investments in wastewater
treatment (21%), waste management (0.5%), and protection and rational use of forest resources
(0.2%). Investments in “other environmental protection activities” were 4.5% of the region’s total
environmental expenditure (Gosudarstvenniy doklad Murmansk, 2003).
In general, as demonstrated in Figure 4.22, the aggregate environmental expenditure in
the Russian Arctic tended to decrease from 0.6% of total environmental expenditure in 1997 to
0.3% in 2003.
Figure 4.22. Environmental protection investments in the Russian Arctic
0,0 0,1 0,2 0,3 0,4 0,5 0,6
Source: author’s calculations based on Gosudarstvenniy doklad Arkhangelsk
(2004, 2003); Gosudarstvenniy doklad Murmansk (2003); Gosudarstvenniy
doklad Rossiya (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003); Gosudarstvenniy doklad
Sakha-Yakutia (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003); Rosstat (2004)
However, it is important to note that the remaining three regions were not included in the
analysis. In addition, an interesting finding by DANCEE/OECD (2000) that current
environmental expenditure was much higher than investment expenditure both in Novgorod and
Pskov Oblasts should be also taken into consideration. The actual figures for the total
environmental expenditure for the whole Russian Arctic may well exceed those used in the
As is clear from the regional state of the environment reports, environmental financing
strategies in the Russian Arctic regions address the priority sectors first. Apparently, air
emission abatement measures are most important for industrial regions such as Murmansk and
Yamal-Nenets AO, and wastewater treatment is a priority for Sakha. Therefore, as in case with
Novgorod and Pskov Oblasts, the targeted environmental financing in the Russian Arctic seems
There are information gaps as to the sources of financing. DANCEE/OECD (2000)
emphasises that information on budget environmental subsidies and environmental revenues
for oblast and local budgets should be available at oblast level and published officially.
Alternatively, this information should be included in the regional state of the environment reports
in a more detailed manner than it is currently. In order to capture all environmental expenditure,
the definitions for reporting coverage should be broadened for both forms and cover all
environmental activities, services and payments made by enterprises and organisations of all
forms of property and by all sectors of environmental expenditure. Finally, in order to improve
the situation with the significant underreporting of environmental expenditure, it is necessary to
re-evaluate the principles about who should report environmental expenditure and to enforce
the collection of data with the necessary means. The main point here is to make sure that all
municipal customer service and enterprises with foreign ownership report environmental
Paradoxically, environmental expenditure in Russia continued to rise even after the
elimination of Federal Environmental Fund in 2001 and of some regional environmental funds.
Polluter pays principle was seriously compromised in 2002 by the ruling of the Russian
Supreme Court in favour of the Norilsk Nikel Mining Company that the pollution charges cannot
be deemed to be taxes and the amount of such charges shall be fixed by a federal
administration. The ruling has countered Article 5 of the Fiscal Code under which all federal
taxes and levies are supposed to be fixed by this Code and not by any administration or
authority. As a consequence, since the court ruling in March 2002 the collection of
environmental charges and payments has reduced dramatically. If before March 2002 the
majority of environmental charges were supposed to be paid by the initiators of environmental
pollution, today authorities and business made it the responsilibity of taxpayers. The resulting
immediate deterioration of the quality of environmental controls is only one sad consequence of
the current alliance between the Russian state and resource companies (Larin et al, 2003).
4.4.9 Hazardous Waste – You’d Better Start Recycling Now Mister!
The environmentally sound management of hazardous and toxic waste is of paramount
importance for human health, environmental protection and sustainable development, of which
effective prevention of the generation of hazardous waste is the key element.
For many decades, toxic chemicals and hazardous waste have been the major problem
in Russia. As shown in Table 4.30, the amount of hazardous waste has been steadily increasing
in the recent years in Russia due to the rising generation and improved controls. The amounts
of handled hazardous waste in Russia increase as well, although not as quickly as its
generation which leads to growing stock of hazardous waste. Category 1 hazardous waste is
being generated at higher rate because of higher processing costs. It can be assumed that this
negative trend will continue in the near future. In addition to the increase in flows of such waste,
there is now a major difficulty in managing the existing stock. The amount generated is often
stored in inadequate conditions and poses a growing health hazard (Bobylev and Makeyenko,
2002; World Bank, 2004).
Table 4.32. Generation and handling of hazardous waste in Russia, 1993 to 2001, million
1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Generated 67,5 75,1 83,4 82,6 89,4 107,1 108,1 127,5 139,2
Processed 31,4 38,9 40,5 46,1 48,3 42,2 37,2 46,1 50,9
% processed 53 48 51 56 54 39 34 36 37
Source: Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002)
Thus, the amount of hazardous waste generated in Russia has increased twofold
between 1993 and 2001. As assumed by Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya (2001), the total
amount of hazardous waste generated and stored in Russia by 2001 might be even higher: all
storage facilities, collectors, depots, testing grounds, waste dumps and other sites owned by
industrial enterprises in Russia have generated over 1,9 billion tonnes of hazardous and toxic
waste. The (net) hazardous waste production over this period increased by over 80 per cent.
Furthermore, industrial output decreased from 1993 to 1998 and then increased from 1998 to
2001. However, from 1993 to 2001, the general trend of pollution intensity due to toxic waste
production was increasing. The possible reasons for this worsening trend are reduced
environmental inspections and maintenance of old structures such as pipelines (causing
leakages). The main sectors that account for the increase in toxic waste are the non-ferrous
metals, iron and steel, chemical and petrochemicals and coal industries. In fact, most industries
have increased production of toxic waste in 2001 relative to their 1995 production. However,
there is still serious problem with access to environmental information in Russia. Russian NGOs
complain that any information related to nuclear and toxic waste is not easily accessible (World
There are however detailed data on some toxic waste categories in Russia, mainly from
international reports. For example, a total of 8,396 tonnes of mercury-containing hazardous
waste was generated in Russia in 2002, of which 2,517 tonnes have been processed. By the
late 1990s, a total of 1.1 million tonnes of mercury-containing waste was accumulated in Russia.
The major part of these waste (58%) contains 0.001 to 0.003 % of mercury, about 30% - more
than 0.5% of Hg, and about 12% - 0.01 to 0.5% (by mass). Today, some 650,000 tonnes of
mercury-containing waste are stored in Russia, and another 11,000 tonnes are produced and
stored annually. The non-ferrous industries have accumulated more than 63,000 tonnes of
mercury-selenium slag. The so-called mercury stupp (up to 75-80% mercury concentration)
recycled from the mercury containing appliances is reported to be stored in special reservoirs at
demercuration plants or specialised landfills. If it is true, the mercury in such stupp in Russia is
currently equal to 30 tonnes (ACAP, 2005).
For the Russian Arctic with its huge industrial network of “dirty” sector companies, the
problem of hazardous waste is particularly acute. As shown in Figure 4.23, hazardous waste
rose from 43,000 tonnes in 1995 to 2,317,900 tonnes in 2000. Although hazardous waste
generation reduced to 779,100 tonnes in 2001, the increase still seems considerable. As is in
the rest of Russia, the quantity of hazardous waste processed is much lower than the
generation, although it has increased from 17,000 tonnes in 1995 to 308,000 tonnes in 2001.
Figure 4.23. Generation and handling of hazardous waste in the Russian Arctic
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Source: author’s calculations based on Gosudarstvenniy doklad
Rossiya (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002)
As Gosudarstvenniy doklad Rossiya (2001) reports, the Russian Arctic region of
Krasnoyarsk is second in Russia in producing hazardous waste, with 18,1 million tonnes of
hazardous waste generated in 2001, or 13 per cent of the total hazardous waste generation in
As mentioned above, it is not easy to obtain the information on Russia’s hazardous
waste, although some regional state of the environment reports contain it, albeit not on regular
basis. Thus, in 2002 a total of 392,000 tonnes of hazardous waste was reported to be
generated in Nenets AO. Due to the lack of processing facilities, most hazardous waste in the
okrug is stored or incinerated by companies (Gosudarstvenniy doklad Nenets, 2002). In 2002,
Arkhangelsk Oblast (without Nenets AO) had 4,766,900 tonnes of hazardous waste
(Gosudarstvenniy doklad Arkhangelsk, 2003). Some 19,000 tonnes of hazardous waste
reported to be generated in Sakha in 2003, of which only about 20% have been processed. In
Sakha, hazardous waste are reported to be stored at the industrial sites, often under inadequate
conditions and in rusty containers (Gosudarstvenniy doklad Sakha, 2002, 2003).
In contrast, the generation of toxic waste sharply declined in St Petersburg in 2002 by
82% relative to its 1997/1998 levels. This was mainly attributed to the environmental
investments (e.g. for waste treatment facilities) of industrial enterprises in the city (World Bank,
4.4.10 INES Incidents – How Do You Spell Chernobyl?
Operational nuclear safety is a prime concern for countries using atomic energy to meet
their energy demands. From the very beginning of commercial nuclear operations, there has
been a strong awareness of potential hazard of nuclear accidents and release of radioactive
materials, with the major threats to human health and the environment. Nuclear safety is thus an
important element of sustainable development, and nuclear-related sustainability indicators
have increasingly been included in the national sustainability indicator frameworks in countries
which operate NPPs (e.g. the UK).
For Russia, nuclear safety has been a main issue since the 1986 nuclear disaster in
Chernobyl, the most serious nuclear accident to date. Many of the country’s 31 reactors at 10
operating NPPs are aged, and recently there have been serious social and economic problems
with Russian nuclear power stations.
As Uranium Information Centre (2006) reports, Russia's NPPs currently comprise:
• first generation VVER-440/230 or similar pressurised water reactors which have
serious design deficiencies;
• 2 second generation VVER-440/213 pressurised water reactors with some major
design deficiencies which have been partly remedied;
• 9 third generation VVER-1000 pressurised water reactors with a full containment
structure. These have some instrumentation and control system deficiencies, but
come closest to Western standards;
• 11 RBMK light water graphite reactors now unique to Russia. The four oldest of
these were commissioned in the 1970s at Kursk and Leningrad and are of some
concern. A further Kursk unit is under construction;
• small graphite-moderated BWR reactors in eastern Siberia, constructed in the 1970s
for cogeneration; and
• A BN-600 fast-breeder reactor.
Generally, reactors are licensed for 30 years. Late in 2000, plans were announced for
lifetime extensions of twelve first-generation reactors totalling 5.7 GWe, and the extension
period envisaged is now 15 years, necessitating major investment in refurbishing them by 2006.
So far three 15-year extensions have been achieved for Novovoronezh-3 & 4, Kursk-1 & 2,
Kola-1 & 2 and Leningrad-1. Leningrad-2 will be upgraded in 2005. Bilibino 1 & 2 have been