‘It will anyway not start raining because we will have a go at Zakharov’
The Tatarstan president defended Tatarstan’s chief meteorologist Sergey Zakharov who was accused of not having warned the countryman about the arrival of hot weather
“If the service had said this, we would probably have prepared for this better,” Vice Chairman of the Tatarstan State Council’s Committee for Environment and Agro-Industrial Policy Takhir Khadeyev was indignant in Tatarstan’s Parliament on 8 July reproaching Russian meteorologists for inaccurate weather forecasts. The fact that the emergency state was declared only in 38 out of 43 municipalities also irritated agriculturist deputies because of weather information. “Have you thought of how these countrymen from these five districts will repay loans?” Khadeyev wondered. Read in Realnoe Vremya’s report now defended Tatarstan’s chief meteorologist Sergey Zakharov was justified at a parliamentary session.
Is the bad weather guilty?
Tatarstan deputies tried to blame workers of the Tatarstan Office of Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring who didn’t manage to foresee the arrival of hot weather and warn countrymen about the upcoming natural disaster. Tatarstan agricultural enterprises, as it is known, work in a risky farming area, with notable fluctuations in climatic conditions, this is why not only agricultural machinery but also long-term weather forecasts are needed. A three-day forecast usually becomes a reality, but can the republican meteorological office forecast long-term? Can we rely on the warning that can turn out useful and necessary for the Agro-Industrial Complex, transport workers? Perhaps, should weather forecasts of the federal service be made not only for ordinary people to know if they should take an umbrella or not?
Tatarstan parliamentarians evaluated a speech of head of the Department of the Federal Service of Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring in the Volga Federal District Anna Noskova who arrived in Kazan from Nizhny Novgorod from this angle. She described the big picture about what her service does illustrating slides during the speech. Her speech took quite much time, about 30 minutes and turned out to be the longest report.
According to her report, about a thousand natural hazards were registered in Russia in 2020, more than 300 of them significantly harmed the economy. Special attention was paid to the department’s work on licensing, control, supervision and prevention of violations of environmental legislation. It seemed that the speaker herself was surprised she had been invited to deliver a summary in Tatarstan Parliament. Indeed, why are meteorologists all of a sudden invited to the State Council’s pulpit?
Hot weather is everywhere, but five districts are not declared a state of emergency
This moment became clear when deputies asked to take the floor. “Only as an exception,” State Council Speaker Farid Mukhametshin warned. Vice Chairman of the Tatarstan State Council’s Committee for Environment and Agro-Industrial Policy Takhir Khadeyev who used to be the vice minister of agriculture and food of Tatarstan was given the exceptional right to ask a question.
“Tatarstan works in a risky farming area, and a long-term forecast is very important for us. When will the Hydrometeorology Centre learn to give us recommendations six months in advance?” he asked with an emotional accent on the word “learn.”
In his opinion, a rapid change of temperature has turned out to be critical for countrymen this year. “This year, the sums of effective temperatures have been 166% above 5 degrees and almost 200% above 10 degrees. If the service had said this, we would probably have prepared for this better,” he reproached the “weathermen” in natural cataclysms. He thinks that accurate long-term forecasts would seriously help villagers to save the harvest.
On the other hand, not all Tatarstan districts managed to declare a state of emergency because when making a decision they rely on the Tatarstan office’s weather reports. Khadeyev says that the emergency was declared in 38 districts, it wasn’t in five districts. “How will they repay loans? How weren’t the five districts declared an emergency?” he repeated.
Few forecast a hundred per cent accurately
Head of the Department of the Federal Service of Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring in the Volga Federal District Anna Noskova understood the essence of agriculturalists’ claims judging by her concerned look. “The Hydrometeorology Centre makes a forecast for the vegetative period in advance,” she explained. “While our office adapts it, makes amendments to climatic occurrences that are expected soon.”
But the service cannot make an accurate long-term forecast. “It is always hard to make a forecast, few forecast weather a hundred per cent accurately,” she replied. “We try, but it seems to me that our service does it quite well,” she attenuated the tension.
Deputies shouted in the hall that it is necessary to cover “the important question about the environment in Kazan.” The State Council’s speaker stopped them.
“Wait a minute, Zakharov will deliver a speech. He is ours... I will ask Mr Zakharov to tell us about the state... not report on how many sessions, how many meetings and publications in the press they have had...” Mukhametshin dropped a clear hint to the chief Tatarstan meteorologist what he is expected to say from the State Council’s pulpit. “He needs to talk about the environment, this concerns people, why the Volga, Kama, Belaya rivers are contaminated. Here all questions can be asked, including about solid municipal waste, these issues are monitored by this department,” the parliamentary speaker expanded the range of topics of Zakharov’s speech.
More than 20 minutes left to a break. It seemed that Farid Mukhametshin was aware of Sergey Zakharov’s inclination for hours-long reports asked him with some warning how many minutes his speech would take. A bit confused because of such a question, the head of the Tatarstan office of the Russian Hydrometeorology Centre turned to the speaker and assured him it would certainly keep to the allotted time.
About quality of air and contamination of small rivers
Indeed, Sergey Zakharov talked in silence for more than half an hour. No time left for deputies’ additional questions. The audience was disappointed because the head of the Tatarstan office of the Russian Hydrometeorology Centre presented a dry report of a functionary for an ordinary working meeting, not a business report for an influential audience of the Tatarstan Parliament. In his speech, Zakharov enumerated the details the deputies didn’t need for long, talked about the course of environmental monitoring, shared numbers about the location and number of observation stations. There was little information about the environment itself, anyway there was some.
There has been registered a worsening of the air quality in the republic’s capital in the last few years. 2015-2016 were characterised in Kazan as “low” [from a perspective of the amount of air pollution], while 2017-2018 were as “high.” According to the speaker, formaldehyde, nitrogen dioxide make the biggest contribution to air pollution. The air in Naberezhnye Chelny hasn’t been contaminated in the last five years, but Zakharov said later that there had been contamination by phenol anyway. 2015-2016 were considered “low” in Nizhnekamsk, 2017-2018 were “high.” Here ammonia and nitrogen dioxide are detected in the air. So there isn’t a clear tendency for worse air quality in Nizhnekamsk. Zakharov also noted that the data collected by his service is sent to the Russian Ministry of Nature to make up Russian cities’ environmental rating.
Why four surveillance air quality sensors turned off in Kazan
The wishes of the State Council speaker “to talk about the state of rivers” weren’t unnoticed. Sergey Zakharov said that small rivers are the dirtiest — the Kazanka, Stepnoy Zay River, which see industrial cities’ manmade impact (Leninogorsk, Almetyevsk). “The quality of small rivers remains unfavourable, while the contamination level is high,” he concluded, “There is a tendency for a worse quality of water in the Mesha, Sviyaga Rivers.”
Deputy of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation Artyom Prokofyev asked why the service turned off four automatic air control stations in Kazan. After long explanations, it turned out they were switched on only during the Universiade and then were used “voluntarily,” there was no obligation. Answering a direct question why the five districts had not been declared an emergency state because of the abnormally hot weather, Sergey Zakharov shrugged his shoulders. “We cannot include or exclude districts from this list. We simply hand over information, while a decision is made up there, at the top!” he said.
“Is it his fault that there is no rain?”
Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov defended meteorologists. “There was a good harvest last year, nobody remembered Zakharov, nobody needed him. This year, when there is no rain... It will do no good if we blame only Zakharov,” he claimed.
The president thinks that the Tatarstan meteorological service is quite well equipped, and this is Zakharov’s merit. “And it is also his fault that there is no rain,” Minnikhanov joked but started to speak seriously. He reproached the ex-vice minister of agriculture for a weak watering system. “The situation is tough. Today it is necessary to mobilise resources so that not only the public sector but also private households are provided with forage,” the president warned. Explaining the absence of emergency in the five districts, Minnikhanov said that it is not meteorologists’ fault. As for long-term forecasts, the president seemed not to wait for them. “We need to foresee three months in advance, not a week, not 10 days.”
Sergey Zakharov wanted to take the floor but the speaker raised his arm and repeated many times: “No need.” Zakharov anyway cut in a phrase urging agriculturists to deal with sprout insurance. “I have defended you, but it doesn’t mean you should talk,” Minnikhanov stopped the “talkative” speaker with a smile.
We should add that at the meeting of the State Council the deputies were presented a report of the republican Accounts Chamber’s performance in 2020. Vice Chairman of the Tatarstan Accounts Chamber Albert Valeyev delivered the report. So the spring session of the State Council closed. Next time the deputies will gather for another meeting in September.