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Environmental problems of Northern Eurasia

Air Pollution

<<< Prospects for the Future | Environmental Problems Index | Climatology of Air Pollution >>>


Air pollution is ubiquitous around the world and the countries of the former Soviet Union (FSU) are no exception. The massive emissions of pollutants, traditionally from state-owned industrial establishments and more recently from the growing number of badly maintained vehicles, have led to poor air quality in cities. Twenty-three cities in the FSU accommodate over a million people, requiring vast amounts of energy, and there are numerous settlements developed around large industrial plants with the population living in close proximity to factories. Urban dwellers breathe air laden with pollutants but pollution is not confined to cities any longer: even the once clear air of the Arctic is hazy. The amount and type of atmospheric pollution is determined not only by emissions but also by the state of the atmosphere. Although it has long been a joke that various problems plaguing the FSU should be blamed on the unfavourable climate and invariably inclement weather, it should be admitted that much of the region experiences climate which is conducive to the formation of high pollution levels.

For years little has been known about air quality in the FSU both within the country and abroad. Portraying pollution as a 'capitalist evil', the Soviet authorities were sensitive to any reports on domestic problems and air quality data remained classified until the late 1980s. Publications in the Soviet media were extremely few, access to academic papers was restricted and, of necessity Western commentaries on the Soviet environment had to draw on incomplete and anecdotal evidence. The collapse of communism has brought the environmental problems in the FSU to the attention of the international community. International organizations provided expertise as well as financial help to address air pollution problems and a number of in-depth reports have been published by the WBRD, EBRD, OECD, and UNEP, as well as by academics.

This chapter provides a broad overview of air pollution in the FSU based on the data obtained from the national air pollution monitoring networks and published works. The chapter commences with a discussion of climatic conditions relevant to the formation of pollution patterns. It proceeds to examine the history of air pollution, providing a brief outline of industrialization, and an analysis of Soviet environmental policies and air quality prior to 1990. The chapter continues with a discussion of economic trends and policies affecting air pollution over the past decade during the transition from central planning to a market-based economy, and analysis of modern trends. Two case studies are examined: air pollution in the Arctic and in Moscow.

<<< Prospects for the Future | Environmental Problems Index | Climatology of Air Pollution >>>



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