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How the trash business is poisoning Russia

On March 21st a local court in the Russian town of Volokolamsk ruled to keep a dump producing unbearable smell open. Just on the next day dozens of children were taken to the hospital. No measures have been taken to protect the health of people and the environment.

March 27, 2018 - Marija Bogdanovic - Stories and ideas

Image by Lodo27

This week, Volokolamsk, a town northwest of Moscow, exploded with protests against a local dump which allegedly emits a toxic gas. On March 21st, according to the Russian TASS news agency, more than 20 pupils were hospitalised, presumably after a strong release of hydrogen sulfide at the Yadrovo dump. The head of the Volokolamsk district, Yevgeny Gavrilov, quoted by the Moscow Times said on March 22nd that as many as 57 children sought medical attention. Meanwhile in total about 200 people living near the dump have complained about headaches and nausea.

On March 21st Volokolamsk mayor Pyotr Lazarev told Current Time TV that the situation was very serious. “The children were taken to the clinic by ambulances. Parents are gathered near the hospital, demanding clear information on their children’s diagnoses. [Doctors] say it is poisoning,” Lazarev said.

The situation caused rallies against the local officials and urged Andrey Vorobyov, the governor of the Moscow region, to visit the hospital the sick children were taken to. However, his visit did not calm down the crowd demanding an immediate closure of the dump. When the governor left the hospital, demonstrators started to shout and throw snowballs at him. A video showing the incident appeared on the Internet.

The district’s head Yevgeny Gavrilov also visited the hospital, which elicited a similar reaction of the crowd.

On Thursday, Interfax quoted Gavrilov’s office confirming that the source of the leakage at the dump was covered with soil overnight. Despite this, no measures appear to have been taken yet.

But the story of the dump in Volokolamsk did not start that week. In early March, some 5,000 people took to the streets of the town complaining about a terrible smell coming from the Yadrovo dump and demanding the closure of the landfill. On March 8th local residents attempted to block the road leading to the dump, but the police dispersed the demonstrators and cleared the way for garbage trucks. However, the protests went on.

“My neighbours’ kid was poisoned by the bad air last week. They had to call an ambulance for him. The doctor confirmed the poisoning was caused by air from the dump,” Natalya, a resident of Volokolamsk told the Russian media outlet Meduza. “Once again we can’t let the kids play on the street, and as soon as my husband and I rush home, we try to block any gaps around the windows. Every day, when we go out in the street, we get a splitting headache almost immediately.”

On March 10th the governor of the Moscow region, Andrey Vorobyov, issued an order to close the Yadrovo dump in three months. However, trucks continued to deliver garbage to the landfill, and when on the next day local resident tried to stop them, 13 people were detained by the police. Despite the decision, a local court refused to close the dump.

An article by Leonid Bershidsky published in Bloomberg on March 22nd suggests who was behind the poisoning. The author claims that garbage business in Moscow is run by several influential businessmen close to Russia’s president Vladimir Putin. Among them are billionaire Roman Abramovich, the son of Russia’s Prosecutor General and the son-in-law of Putin’s close friend.

Although it is unconfirmed who really runs the Yadrovo landfill, one thing is clear: this is a deadly business and measures must be taken immediately. 

Marija Bogdanovic is the founder and Executive Director of the Endowment for Public Awareness (EPA).


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