Alexander Shadrikov: ‘It is necessary to set aside land with potable water deposits now’

The remediation of the landfill in Samosyrovo and sludge pits in Pobedilovo are key challenges for the republic, said Tatarstan Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Alexander Shadrikov during Realnoe Vremya’s online conference. A serious job will have to be done to clean the Volga River (the river water has improved in the last years, the environmental arm of the Tatarstan government believes), to keep the river level of the Kuybyshev Reservoir and set aside land plots with potable groundwater. They have to deal with local problems too, their cost is comparable to large projects: the reconstruction of the dam alone near Nizhnekamsk cost nearly a billion rubles, while at least a third of a billion will be necessary to clean the Melekeska River in Naberezhnye Chelny.

Remediation of Samosyrovo landfill and Pobedilovo sludge pits

The environment ministry named the Samosyrovo landfill, “a huge black spot in Kazan”, as key environmental issue of Tatarstan that had “bothered our citizens for many years.” The landfill revegetation was one of Russia’s first pilot degasation projects, which kicked off on Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov’s instructions. Later, Tatneft joined it.

“Thanks to the Environment national project, its programme The Clean Country, the Samosyrovo landfill revegetation project started to be implemented in 2021. The project costs 890 million rubles. 298 million rubles will be spent on the first stage of the works this year,” Alexander Shadrikov claimed during Realnoe Vremya’s online conference. “The works are already underway.”

The minister called sludge pits near Pobedilovo as a second most important environmental problem. Their remediation is also a pilot project, which is very complex. 100 hectares will have to be remediated. After two years of research, suitable technology started to be looked for, and the necessary solution was finally found.

“The pits will be dehydrated, then disinfected with reagents, heavy metals will be deactivated and stabilised. And the most important thing is that this place won’t become a new waste burial site, it is necessary to turn it into a recreational zone in the future,” the head of the Environment Ministry thinks.

The Volga River water has improved in the last three years

A landfill revegetation project in Prosti village, Nizhnekamsk District, is coming to an end in Tatarstan this year. Then the landfill was burning, the site was always a hyped topic for both citizens and the mass media, the minister recognised. The situation was tough.

“When we met with villagers, they said before rubber goods were dumped here, there had been some springs, there had been a river with fish. Today clean water and springs have appeared again after the revegetation,” the minister claimed.

Shadrikov noted that the landfill had a negative impact not only on the local river but also Nizhnekamsk’s environment. Nowadays the problem has been solved, the gully has been improved, while all rubber goods have been taken for recycling, not just “dug out and buried in another place.”

The reconstruction and construction of treatment facilities within the Volga River Rehabilitation national project is another important task. 12 facilities of this kind have already been built, one of the most serious parts of the project will have to be done, which is the reconstruction of treatment facilities of Kazan (they account for 64% of all sewage in Tatarstan water). Moreover, just two districts were named in 2020, which were “in the green area in terms of treatment facilities’ efficacy. The quality of water in the last three years has anyway improved. Minister Alexander Shadrikov cites data of 271 sensors in 69 Tatarstan water bodies and information of laboratories certified by the environment ministry.

“We saw analytics for three years: the quality of water has improved. Though many say that, on the contrary, the quality has worsened and allegedly there has been less fish,” Realnoe Vremya’s interlocutor noted.

According to him, the Tatarstan Ministry of Environment helps launch legal actions against recalcitrant offenders during the control of water bodies.

Nizhnekamsk dam reconstruction for billion

A lot of enterprises repeatedly make violations. Alexander Shadrikov particularly named Archa company from Baltasi District. It is a butter and milk factory, which is accused of polluting the Shoshma River near Karelino village, Baltasi District.

A total of 11,5 billion rubles were spent in 2020 on environmental projects of Tatarstan, including from the federal and republican budgets. But Shadrikov says that Tatarstan enterprises invested the majority, which is 6,8 billion rubles for measures designed to “eliminate the negative environmental impact.” In the end Tatarstan holds the lead in the amount of investments in environmental projects among Volga regions.

“Such companies as Tatneft and TAIF made the main contribution. Municipalities themselves did a job. Due to this, for instance, we completely solved the problem with the dam in Nizhnekamsk District by reconstructing the dam along 2,107 metres in Krasny Klyuch settlement,” the minister said. “With the support of the Federal Agency for Water Resources, more than 900 million rubles were allocated in the water complex development programme alone.”

It became possible to keep the water level in Kuybyshev Reservoir

Tatarstan has to solve another important problem — the water level in the Kuybyshev Reservoir — together with other Volga regions. This has to be done amid the discontent of Tatarstan citizens from riverside districts in Kazan where a very low river level has been registered this year, which leads to fish mortality.

“As our colleagues in the Russian Ministry of Environment say, everybody tells the truth: the Lower Volga River tells its own truth, the Middle Volga River tells the truth too,” the minister noted. “We always have our own problem: who needs more water?”

The Middle Volga River has five regions with the Kuybyshev Reservoir. The Lower Volga River includes the regions with access to the Caspian Sea, including Astrakhan Oblast. The Volga and Kama cascade is a network of water stations, the Kuybyshev Reservoir itself is just a part of them.

“The drought in 2021 has been like in 2010 (Editor’s note: the water level was below 49 metres then). Even though we see a stable water level of the Kuybyshev Reservoir, the water decreased only in August,” the head of the environmental arm of the Tatarstan government disagreed with the public opinion. “And nowadays the level of our water reservoir is 50 metres 11 centimetres in the Baltic Elevation System. This level is not critical.”

Now the task is to keep this level by accumulating water before spring with its field works as much as possible. At the same time, it is absolutely necessary to control the water level in the Kuybyshev Reservoir — “not only Tatarstan needs it.” This is why today Tatarstan agrees with another four regions — Ulyanovsk Oblast, Mari El, Samara Oblast and Chuvashia — on its decision on the water level within the work of the intergovernmental group of the Federal Agency for Water Resources.

“This problem is common. The joys are common. And a common decision needs to be made,” the minister claimed.

Necessary to set aside land with springs

Finally, besides large-scale problems, Tatarstan controls groundwater sources and the treatment of small rivers of the republic. Nowadays there are a lot of such springs, the biggest are located in Zelenodolsk and Laishevo District. The authorities consider them, first of all, as “reserve sources” for the Kazan urban agglomeration.

“Drinking water in fact must be more valuable, one cannot treat it so carelessly. It should be saved,” the Tatarstan environment minister warns. “It is necessary to reserve lands, set aside plots with drinking water deposits [prohibiting construction there].”

Not everybody understands this. So Shadrikov put an example: one of the municipalities recently decided to build an industrial park on a territory with a quality potable water source. Despite this, the minister noted, the district declared this zone an “industrial territory.”

The Federal Unique Water Sites Programme within the Environment national project is responsible with the treatment of small Tatarstan rivers. In this programme, the bottom of the Melekeska River in the centre of Naberezhnye Chelny will be cleaned. Several similar projects where it is necessary to clean tributaries and river from rushes have been implemented in the republic since 2021. The total cost of the works is 200 million rubles. The clean-up of the Vyatka River’s tributary in Mamadysh District is another project. Two projects are fulfilled in Nikolskoye and Derzhavino villages in Laishevo District. Both Laishevo projects are already completed, the water bodies will have to be just stocked with fish in 2022.

“We all know in what state the Melekeska River is today. The manmade factor had a huge impact on it, of course. We can it is everybody’s fault. It is necessary to take urgent measures. The river is 4,6 kilometres long. Now we are preparing financing for 2022-2023.”

The clean-up of the river alone is assessed at 308 million rubles.

Sergey Afanasyev. Photo: Maxim Platonov

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