Ministry of Ecology of Tatarstan 2021: wild cats, large-scale recultivations and fight against irrepressible 'environmentalism'

What plans the ministry of environment of Tatarstan has for the future and who prevents saving people from flooding

Ministry of Ecology of Tatarstan 2021: wild cats, large-scale recultivations and fight against irrepressible 'environmentalism'
Photo: Lyudmila Gubaeva

In 2020, the ministry of environment and natural resources of Tatarstan spent 2,87 billion rubles as part of the Environment national project. In the future, instead of fetid silt fields in Kazan, there will be a recreational zone, manuls and leopards will settle in Kamskoe Ustye, and forest will appear on the site of the Samosyrovskaya landfill. But no matter how hard the agency tries, it is hindered by pseudo-environmental activists who make a fuss about important projects. Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Tatarstan Alexander Shadrikov told about this and many other things at the meeting with journalists on 29 December.

Disbursed budgets: the year in figures

Despite the coronavirus lockdown, the funds allocated for environmental protection in the republic remained enormous. For example, under the national project alone, Tatarstan has implemented 2,9 billion rubles over the year. 2,2 billion of them were allocated by the federal budget, 655 million — by the republican one. Out of these:

  • 1,6 billion rubles spent on Improvement of the Volga River programme,
  • 834,1 million — on Clean Country programme,
  • 234,3 million — Integrated System of Solid Municipal Waste Management programme
  • and “modest” 197,7 million on Forest Conservation.

Next year, the Preservation of Unique Water Bodies programme will be included in the implementation of the national project in the republic. The MSW Management System programme will be completed in the republic, and the Clean Water will be completely excluded the Environment national project.

In total, Tatarstan has spent as much as 11,29 billion rubles on environmental protection measures over the year. The minister again stressed that these figures are comparable to “the budget of an entire subject of the Russian Federation” and separately drew attention to that 6,6 billion rubles are the funds spent on nature protection by enterprises of the republic.

Problem with sewage treatment plants: only two “green areas”

The minister showed the journalists a map, which clearly reflects the big problem with the treatment facilities of the republic. Only two districts of Tatarstan — Atninsky and Yutazinsky — are painted green on it; this means that absolutely all existing sewage treatment plants discharge absolutely clean water into reservoirs, which does not exceed the threshold limit value (TLV) by any indicator. In other areas, discharge exceeds maximum permissible concentrations. In eight districts of the republic, the work is currently underway to reconstruct treatment facilities, and the rest “cheerfully” coloured regions on the map of Tatarstan still show the pollutants exceeding TLV in the discharged water.

Answering questions from journalists, Alexander Shadrikov explained that in reality everything is not so bad and the area gets “negative coloruing” if at least one enterprise in it discharges insufficiently treated drains. Then he sternly reminded that the responsibility for this lies not only and not so much on the ministry but on the leaders at the local level. Among them — both the heads of districts and the owners of treatment facilities. But the ministry has already taken up the quality of cleaning — Shadrikov expressed hope that soon most of the districts will “turn green”.

In total, 181 treatment facilities operate in the republic, of which 131 discharge water after treatment into rivers and lakes. At the same time, 82% of sewage treatment plants do not provide standard treatment. 1,55 million cubic meters of wastewater go into reservoirs a day, of which 42% is provided by one enterprise — Vodokanal of Kazan Municipal Unitary Enterprise. Another 14% is provided by Chelnyvodokanal PLC.

So the main questions arise to Vodokanal Municipal Unitary Enterprise, and that is why in the next three years a huge amount is allocated for the reconstruction of its treatment facilities — 7,1 billion rubles. It is assumed that after its completion by 2024, crystal clear water will be discharged into the Volga River. To control its quality, the project even includes an automatic water quality control station, which will provide the results of chemical analysis online in a continuous mode. So the bright future at the republican sewage treatment plants should come very, very soon, we just need to wait a little longer.

Reclamation: will there be a garden city here?

In 2021, the works are planned to solve two long-standing problems of Kazan — the beginning of reclamation of silt fields of Kazan treatment facilities and the continuation of work at the Samosyrovskaya landfill.

Journalists were particularly interested in who and how will reclaim the silt fields. It is no wonder: very close to the centre of Kazan, very close to the Volga River, there are 91,4 fetid hectares, on which more than half a century sewage sludge from the city's treatment plant has been accumulating. Since now the sludge is burned, new one is no longer accumulated there. But the old one won't go away by itself. Therefore, the ministry was faced with a serious question: what to do with 4,4 million tonnes of sludge to put this territory in order.

It seems that the issue has been resolved. However, Alexander Shadrikov did not disclose to journalists the narrow details of the technology under which the work will go. But the general direction is the following: they will not take out the sludge anywhere. It will be treated with flocculant, pathogenic microflora will be neutralised, heavy metals and toxicants will be chemically binded, dried — and the output will be a fertile layer of soil. Subsequently, the minister voiced his dreams, a recreational zone will be spread out on this territory, “where citizens will walk and enjoy the views of the Volga River”.

Journalists were particularly interested in who and how will reclaim the silt fields. Photo: Dmitry Reznov

This is a laudable ambition, it is likely to be implemented by the Krasnoyarsk bureau of Geotekhproekt. When asked by journalists about what projects the bureau has already implemented, the minister replied with the advice to search for information on the Internet. Separately, Alexander Shadrikov answered the question about how it is planned to work with residents of the territories around the silt fields to relieve their anxiety.

“My colleagues and I are ready to go there, talk about everything, answer all questions. In any case, it will not be worse because there is now a very poor quality of atmospheric air.

Another “sore abscess” on the body of Kazan is the Samosyrovskaya landfill, on the reclamation project of which alone almost 12 million have been spent. The total cost of the work will be 837 million rubles. Let us remind that the city has already held public hearings on this project.

Another “sore abscess” on the body of Kazan is the Samosyrovskaya landfill, on the reclamation project of which alone almost 12 million have been spent. Photo: Maksim Platonov

About snow leopards and Pallas's cats

The sacramental phrase “everyone loves cats” found its living embodiment during the meeting. It was only necessary to remind the minister about the infrastructure project of the Ak Bars centre for the study of rare cat species, which is planned to be located in Kamskoe Ustye," the journalists became more active. Despite that Alexander Valeryevich turned out to be a tough nut to crack and did not disclose either the estimated cost of the project or the sources of its financing (in addition to the Conservation of Biodiversity federal project), we still managed to find out something.

  • First, it will be a purely scientific centre, one of the goals of which is to study the genome of snow leopards.
  • Second, specialists from the Kazan University and the Russian Academy of Sciences will mainly work here.
  • Third, several regions fought for the centre, including the Altai Territory (where the snow leopard lives in nature), but the project has been entrusted to Tatarstan — according to Shadrikov, scientists from the Academy of Sciences helped in this.

It seems that the minister likes cats, because on the topic of this centre, he talked especially enthusiastically and even with warmth in his eyes. The journalists were also shown the proposed map of the centre: there will have a small exposition part, where visitors can admire different wildcats. But the main area will be devoted to scientific research: zoologists will study how the sand dune cat and leopard cats, manul and snow leopard, European wildcat live; geneticists will try to isolate their pure genome; ethologists will find out how they behave. The idea and scheme of the centre's work were stolen in Chernogolovka, where Moscow zoologists are already studying the life of wild animals in this way. The negotiations on where the cats will be brought from will begin in parallel with the start of construction of the centre. But as for the timing of when the centre will start its work, the minister did not answer anything — even the financial assessment of the project is not ready yet.

Kamskoe Ustye has been chosen due to its unique natural landscape: it should be comfortable for the snow leopard, where it can climb the rocks, and manul, where it will be comfortable to hide in the rocks, and the sand dune cat, where it will have plenty of space in the local meadows.

“There is ecology, and there are environmentalists”

The emotional reaction of the minister was caused by the question of journalists about how he relates to the sensational scandal with the straightening of the Shilna riverbed in the Tukayevsky district of Tatarstan. Let us remind that the activists of the ONF raised a fuss and (so far) have not allowed to implement this project, which according to plans was supposed to save dozens of houses from flooding, which regularly floods in the spring.

Shadrikov said:

“I has been there. The head of the district showed the flood zone of this river. First of all, no one is going to cut down forests or do something against nature. But if it floods people, then we need to do something about it! This project has been removed from the programme until they and local “environmentalists” resolve the issues. But are they environmentalists?" the minister's eyes narrowed. “You know, there is environment, and there are environmentalists. Environment is those who are really immersed in the problem and its solution. And environmentalists are those who take a flag with the inscription “environment” and bring the issues into a certain plane under this flag. Do you think it is necessary to help people who are flooded in the spring flood?

“It is," the journalist agreed. “The question is how.”

“What other ways are there, if not dredging and straightening the river?" the minister spread his hands. “The head showed me the settlements that are flooded in the spring. We were planning to include this project in the federal programme — but because they wrote endless complaints to Moscow, we crossed it off the list. Was that what they needed? On whose conscience does this problem remain? After all, the residents did not write these complaints. Activists did it. But the residents approached us and said: “We are being flooded, please, help us.”

Photo: Lyudmila Gubaeva

Shadrikov said that he perfectly understands the head of the district and told about a case from his similar experience.

“I myself worked as the head of the district, and believe me, I heard many things in my address when I had to relocate residents of 42 houses that were flooded in the spring. As a result, they made the river channel straightening and it stopped flooding.”

The minister explained that such projects are never implemented without a preliminary examination:

“In any case, we make an expert examination, we consider everything together with scientists. We don't go to an engineer to fix our teeth, do we? We go to a dentist. That's the same with environmental issues, everyone has to do their job. Therefore, when questions are raised — there are specialists, we can invite them! Believe me, we work on every such project, carefully and thoroughly.”

The meeting with journalists lasted more than an hour and a half. But even after the congratulations on the New Year, correspondents approached the minister one by one and continued to ask questions. The results seem to have satisfied everyone: the ministry of environment reported on the work done, and its head once again invited the residents of the republic to an open dialogue, emphasising:

"90% of our work is done behind the scenes. And we are always open to suggestions, questions and comments.”

By Lyudmila Gubaeva, slides provided by Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Tatarstan
Tatarstan