Vienna, February 20 – Half of Russia’s tap water does not meet basic health standards, a shortcoming that cuts decades off the lives of that country’s population, according to participants in last week’s Duma debate on a new federal program that seeks to address it.
Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said that two thirds of the public water supply in the Russian Federation is of such low quality that it threatens the health and well-being of the population, with 15 percent of the total amount being “simply poisonous” to anyone unfortunate to drink it (http://www.aquaexpert.ru/news/2008/02/15/grislov/)
Svetlana Orlova, the vice speaker of the Federation Council, added that Russians would live “20-25 years longer” if they had access to “good quality water,” thus making this not only a public health issue but a national security concern given the country’s demographic problems (http://www.aquaexpert.ru/news/2008/02/18/clear_water/).
And natural resources minister Yuri Trutnyev argued that unless Moscow intervened to provide the necessary funds, nothing could be done because “90 percent of Russian municipalities will not be able to find money for the reconstruction of water purification facilities” (http://www.aquaexpert.ru/news/2008/02/15/grislov/)
Such steps are absolutely essential now, others said, because Russians do not have the option employed elsewhere of relying on bottled water. According to a recent set of tests, none of the major producers of bottled water in the Russian Federation meets necessary health standards (http://www.aquaexpert.ru/news/2008/02/15/tatarstan/).
In a country which has 22 percent of the world’s supply of fresh water, such levels of contamination of what should be one of its greatest resources are especially worrisome. And consequently, Russian parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly last week in favor of a package of government bills to address this problem.
But if the past is any guide, this program will accomplish far less than its authors are now promising, and consequently, Russians will continue to suffer the consequences of this threat to pubic health, even as their leaders celebrate how much richer their country is and how much better they are living than ever before.
Indeed, the gap between the claims of the Kremlin and the problems this parliamentary debate is so great that it is enough to drive many Russians to drink, albeit not water but rather yet another potable which entails different but often more serious health problems by itself.