#Siberia is on fire: why are fires not extinguished?

What’s going on in Siberia?

Forest fires have reached gigantic proportions – about 3 million hectares, which is 12% more than last year. However, a significant part of the area is controlled zones – remote areas where there should not be people. The fire does not threaten settlements, and the elimination of the fire is economically unprofitable – the predicted costs of extinguishing exceed the predicted harm. Ecologists at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimate that fires annually destroy three times as much forest as the forest industry develops, so a fire is inexpensive. The regional authorities initially thought so and decided not to extinguish the forests. Now, the possibility of its liquidation is also questionable; there may simply not be enough equipment and rescuers. 

At the same time, the territory is difficult to access, and it is dangerous to send firefighters into impenetrable forests. Thus, now the forces of the Ministry of Emergency Situations extinguish only fires near settlements. The forests themselves, along with their inhabitants, are on fire. It is impossible to count the number of animals that die in a fire. It is also difficult to assess the damage that has been done to the forest. It will be possible to judge about it only in a few years, since some trees do not die immediately.

How do they react to the situation in Russia and in the world?

The decision not to extinguish the forests for economic reasons did not suit either Siberians or residents of other regions. More than 870 thousand people have signed on the introduction of an emergency throughout Siberia. More than 330 signatures have been collected by a similar Greenpeace. Individual pickets are held in the cities, and a flash mob with the hashtag #Sibirgorit has been launched on social networks to draw attention to the problem.

Russian celebrities also take part in it. So, TV presenter and journalist Irena Ponaroshku said that parades and fireworks are also economically unprofitable, and “The World Cup and the Olympics are billions in losses (data from rbc.ru), but this does not stop anyone.”

“Right now, at this moment, thousands of animals and birds are burning alive, adults and children in the cities of Siberia and the Urals are suffocating, newborn babies are sleeping with wet gauze bandages on their faces, but for some reason this is not enough to introduce an emergency regime! What then is an emergency if not this?!” Irena asks.

“Smog covered most of the major Siberian cities, people have nothing to breathe. Animals and birds perish in agony. The smoke reached the Urals, Tatarstan and Kazakhstan. This is a global ecological catastrophe. We spend a lot of money on curbs and re-tiling, but the authorities say about these fires that it is “economically unprofitable” to extinguish them, – musician Svetlana Surganova.

“The officials considered that the possible damage from the fire was lower than the planned costs for extinguishing … I myself had just come from the Urals and there I also saw a burnt forest along the roads … let’s just not talk about politics, but about how to help at least with indifference. The forest is on fire, people are suffocating, animals are dying. This is a catastrophe that is happening right now! ”, – actress Lyubov Tolkalina.

The flash mob was joined not only by Russian stars, but also by Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio. “The World Meteorological Organization said that in a month of these fires, as much carbon dioxide was released as all of Sweden emits in a year,” he posted a video of the burning taiga, noting that the smoke was visible from space.

What consequences to expect?

Fires not only lead to the death of forests, which are the “lungs of the planet”, but can also provoke global climate change. The scale of natural fires in Siberia and other northern territories this year has reached enormous proportions. According to CBS News, citing the World Meteorological Organization, satellite images show clouds of smoke reaching the Arctic regions. Arctic ice is predicted to melt much faster as soot falling on the ice darkens it. The reflectivity of the surface is reduced and more heat is retained. In addition, soot and ash also accelerate the melting of permafrost, notes Greenpeace. The release of gases during this process increases global warming, and it increases the likelihood of new forest fires.

The death of animals and plants in the forests engulfed in fire is obvious. However, people also suffer because forests are burning. Smog from fires dragged on neighboring territories, reached the Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Kemerovo regions, the Republic of Khakassia and the Altai Territory. Social networks are full of photos of “foggy” cities in which smoke obscures the sun. People complain about breathing problems and worry about their health. Should residents of the capital worry? According to preliminary forecasts of the Hydrometeorological Center, smoke could cover Moscow if a powerful anticyclone comes to Siberia. But it’s unpredictable.

Thus, the settlements will be saved from the fire, but the smoke has already enveloped the cities of Siberia, is spreading further and risks reaching Moscow. Is it economically unprofitable to extinguish forests? This is a contentious issue, given that the solution of environmental problems in the future will require a huge amount of material resources. Dirty air, the death of animals and plants, global warming … Will fires cost us so cheaply?

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