Alexander Shadrikov: “When environment comes to the fore, it speaks about the civilisation of society”

Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Tatarstan about big projects, solving urgent problems and tasks for the future

Alexander Shadrikov: “When environment comes to the fore, it speaks about the civilisation of society”
Photo: Maksim Platonov

Kazan is the second city in Russia in terms of air purity, but the second in terms of pollution of the Volga River. Pilot projects for the reclamation of giant landfills and silt fields have been launched in Tatarstan, but periodically there are still signals about air pollution. We are ahead of the whole of Russia in terms of the number of automatic air monitoring stations, but malicious violators of environmental legislation are still detected (up to five criminal cases a year). Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources of Tatarstan Alexander Shadrikov told Realnoe Vremya about how his department is finishing the year and what unique projects it is going to implement in the near future.

“We should eliminate the silt fields completely in 4 years”

What kind of work is currently being done in the republic to preserve the environment? What is being done under the Environment national project and its programmes? What current problems are being solved with their help and at what stage are they now?

I would like to start with what is being done in the republic in general. In total, 11,3 billion rubles have been invested in environmental measures in Tatarstan — both enterprises of the republic and budgets of various levels participated in this. This is a huge amount, which is comparable to the budget of a small subject of the federation, 6,5 billion of this amount is invested by our enterprises, that is, our companies in today's difficult time are struggling not only for economic indicators but also invest in the environment!

Another 4,8 billion have been invested under the national project, which is being implemented in the republic in four directions. For example, 1,6 billion rubles have been invested in the implementation of the federal project Improvement of the Volga River, about 900 million — in the project Clean Country. We also work on the projects Integrated System of Solid Municipal Waste Management and Preservation of Unique Water Bodies. We are actively going to take part in this work next year, and 1,1 billion rubles were required to work on the federal project Development of the Water Management Complex. Surely you have heard about the Krasnoklyuchinskaya Dam near Nizhnekamsk, which for many years bothered the residents, 900 million rubles were allocated from the regional budget for this, with the support of our president, on his initiative. The task was set — to remove all issues in a year, and we have fulfilled it.

It is also important that by investing in environmental measures today, we are making progress for 2021. The same programmes will work for the next year. Our task is to eliminate the damage that has previously been caused to the environment, and to prevent new damage.

Speaking of earlier damage, do you mean the Soviet times?

Including. For example, I can cite the example of recultivation of silt fields of Kazan wastewater treatment plants. They have been filled up for more than 50 years — sewage sludge was drained from the treatment facilities, which accumulated on 100 hectares. And now the silt fields are almost in the centre of Kazan. We have started working on this issue on the instruction of the president.

Surely you have heard about the Krasnoklyuchinskaya Dam near Nizhnekamsk, which for many years bothered the residents, 900 million rubles were allocated from the regional budget for this, with the support of our president, on his initiative. The task was set — to remove all issues in a year, and we have fulfilled it

How is the work on it going?

During the discussion, we were presented with more than 30 technologies with proposals for reclamation. Moscow has entrusted us to implement this pilot project on the territory of Tatarstan, which has never been done in Russia before. Out of the technologies presented, 27 reached the scientific and technical council of our ministry, since we are customers for the design of the reclamation of silt fields. The designers have already gone to the environmental expertise of Rosprirodnadzor. Now these technologies are considered by independent experts. They are very sensitive to this approach, since the project is pilot one. We hope that we will begin to eliminate the previously accumulated damage.

Our task as a supervisory authority is to point out the mistakes made by the owners of treatment facilities. Besides, we must work together with scientists. After all, it is necessary not only to build treatment systems, but also to ensure the operation of the technology that is used in them

“Our KPI is not the application of funds but the reduction of untreated wastewater discharge”

Since we are talking about treatment: it is known that about 80 per cent of the treatment facilities in the republic do not meet the standards. What work is being done in this direction and when will it be possible to say that the issue has been resolved?

Rustam Nurgalievich set us the task to take control of all treatment facilities in the republic. We have carried out an inventory, and now we have all the discharges, all the treatment facilities in the republic on watch list. In total, there are 181 treatment facilities in Tatarstan, of which 131 discharge wastewater into water bodies of the republic. Analytics shows that it is necessary to seriously deal with these discharges.

If we talk about individual enterprises, we know, for example, that Nizhnekamskneftekhim has invested more than 3 billion rubles in the wastewater treatment system. Kazanorgsintez has invested more than 1 billion rubles in such system. Such enterprises are environmentally oriented. At the same time, in 2020, 1,9 billion from various budgets have been invested in treatment facilities: 1,6 billion of them — under the programme of rehabilitation of the Volga River, and the republic annually invests more than 300 million in this activity. These funds are used for major repairs, construction, and reconstruction of treatment facilities. By the way, 2 billion rubles of republican funds have been invested in this work even before the Volga River rehabilitation programme appeared!

How do you work with the owners of treatment facilities in this direction?

Our task as a supervisory authority is to point out the mistakes made by the owners of treatment facilities. Our colleagues (Rosprirodnadzor and other agencies) and we conduct analytics. Besides, we must work together with scientists. After all, it is necessary not only to build treatment systems but also to ensure the operation of the technology that is used in them. And we conduct this work.

As part of the improvement of the Volga River, our main KPI is not the application of funds, but the reduction of the discharge of untreated wastewater. We have calculated the specific weight of each enterprise, each treatment facility — and we know exactly what “contribution” it makes to the environmental health of the Volga River. Next year, together with the ministry of construction, we will begin the reconstruction of the treatment facilities of Vodokanal Municipal Unitary Enterprise of Kazan, which contributes 42 per cent of the total volume of wastewater discharged. In 3 years, we must completely reconstruct the city's sewage treatment plants, so that completely purified water, corresponding to the quality of the waters of the fisheries complex, goes to the Volga River.

In 2020, five criminal cases were initiated on the fact of the discharge of untreated wastewater, in which the owners of treatment facilities directly appear. So, it is not necessary to bring it to this point!

“In matters of atmospheric air quality, we should trust specialists”

What about the atmospheric air in the republic? Is the situation changing for the better, and complaints about unpleasant odors are becoming less?

A lot is being done, but more needs to be done. As environmentalists, we should not be reassured by a decrease in the number of complaints (although it has indeed become lower by 63 per cent). A lot of work has been done in this direction, for example, in the Nizhnekamsk industrial hub. Each consumer is monitored there, and the number of complaints has decreased significantly.

In general, if we talk about the quality of atmospheric air, then our task is a clear rationing. For example, before starting the construction of an enterprise, its project is coordinated with us, with the ministry of ecology. Their estimated emissions into the atmosphere are calculated, and if they exceed the limit, a permit for such construction will not be issued. We will ask you to adjust the production (either existing or planned) so that the emissions are within the limit.

What problems in this regard arose in 2020?

For example, in 2020, we received more than 200 complaints about air quality from the Samosyrovskaya landfill. Of course, the ideal of our work is that there should be no complaints at all. But we must understand that we do not live in mountains, but in a city. Therefore, our task is at least to prevent exceeding the maximum permissible limit. So, in this direction, there were problems in the outgoing year in the Sovetsky district: Vostochny landfill, Samosyrovskaya landfill…

We don't escape these problems. Our colleagues created a working group and included activists in it. On the first call, our specialists left, took air samples, measured them. After a month and a half of round-the-clock duty there, they found out who was responsible for this emission. But the task was not just to find the source, but also to eliminate it. So, together with the executive committee of Kazan, we are working to ensure that such situations do not happen again in the future.

By the results of 2020, Kazan was the 2nd in terms of atmospheric air quality in Russia. This is not our opinion, this is an independent rating. So, in matters of atmospheric air quality, we should trust specialists

How else do you control the air quality?

For example, the enterprises of TAIF Group and Tatneft transmit information from their control stations to us in open access online. They are completely open in this regard, so we conclude that they have nothing to fear. All their data in the stream goes to our server, we combine them with information from our control stations, so such monitoring is necessary for everyone: both for businesses and for residents.

“After any problem is identified, we must anticipate what will happen next”

Returning to the programme for the development of the water sector of Russia: in 2012, this programme was launched, in 2020 — it is completed. If we talk about Tatarstan, what has been done in recent years in this regard?

Much has been done both in preparation for the Universiade and to eliminate the accumulated negative impact. I have already told you about Nizhnekamsk above. It is also important what challenges we face in this regard today. It is important to go further and create conditions for residents. Many questions arise. We do not live in a fairy tale — we will not eliminate all the problems at once.

We are discussing this with the Federal Water Resources Agency, put global challenges that must be addressed today, we arrange them according to priority. For example, we are going to eliminate the negative impact in Kamskoe Ustye — there is a shoreline erosion, there are risks that people will have to move. We are working in Tetyushi. In the Tukayevsky district, they signed up for shore protection.

In the framework of the work with the Federal Water Resources Agency, there is another sensational project — the environmental rehabilitation of the Melekeska River in Naberezhnye Chelny. This is done within the framework of the Environment national project in the federal program Preservation of Unique Water Bodies. In 2021, our task is to make a project and apply for work in 2022.

Much is being done at the expense of the republic, with the support of the president. This is dredging, and the removal of flooding areas. For 2,020 of these events, we have saved the infrastructure for 2 billion rubles. At the head of the corner we have residents, and I want to emphasise: by implementing the republican programme for the development of the water management complex and environmental protection, we have removed the risks for 5,000 people!

That is, by implementing global projects, we help every resident, isn't it?

Certainly. This year, 1,1 billion have been invested only in the development of the water sector. And this is only according to the programme of work with Rosvodresursy! There are 400 million more allocated on the initiative of the president from the republican budget — to remove problems in municipalities. In fact, we set the task of a comprehensive approach to solving any problem.

After any problem is identified, we must anticipate what will happen next. Therefore, when solving a problem, we turn to professionals, to our science, who tell us what we should do, how we should be and how to solve it

“We are ready to walk on the ice…"

You've mentioned that Kazan is the second in terms of air cleanliness. But at the same time, there is evidence that it also turned out to be one of the main pollutants of the Volga River. To what extent is this true, and how do you control the quality of water in our rivers and lakes?

As I have said above, our republic fully controls all water users. Three hundred and seventy-three million rubles are paid to the federal budget from water users of Tatarstan! In no case do I blame our neighbours, but we have the most complete control. The ministry of ecology of Tatarstan has 261 monitoring points on water bodies. There is not so much in any other subject of the federation.

Another important factor is that we are located on the Middle Volga. We have already argued about this more than once — after all, we take samples at the entrance to the borders of the republic and at the exit. I will not go into the chemical indicators, it is only important that we are now in full control of the situation, and, importantly, we find violators.

By the way, our ministry was included in the working group on the pilot project of monitoring water bodies online. Because the practice that has developed in our ministry of ecology for 10 years can already be scaled to other regions. We certainly don't stop there. We are looking for sensors that could show water quality online. We are installing them. I've mentioned above about the planned reconstruction of the treatment facilities in Kazan — the project documentation includes a laboratory that will broadcast the results of samples of outgoing water online to our server.

We are always open because we know that the picture must be objective. We are always ready to go out on call, ready to go on the ice, do sampling. We are working on these issues, we are not stopping, we are looking for technologies that will allow us to see the situation in real time.

“The task is to have battery collection points in each district”

What is waiting for us in 2021 in terms of environment? What are the trends in the world, what are the main tasks facing us?

We should focus on the circular economy. Many relevant ministries in Europe are now called not ministries of ecology — they are now ministries of circular economy. I think this is one of the important issues because it is circular economy that should be the trend for the future. We must not just extract raw materials but learn to reuse what remains of solid municipal waste, and in this direction all of humanity should move, and we too.

In the processing of industrial waste, it is also necessary to step up. It should be as transparent as possible where industrial enterprises put their waste — whether they go to processing or to burial. We understand that if we bury it all — sooner or later, it will manifest itself in water, air or vegetation.

By the way, we have become the first region in Russia to sign an agreement with the Federal Environmental Operator Federal State Unitary Enterprise. And the “pilot” that they launched here is working with waste of the 1st and 2nd hazard classes. This should be seriously dealt with. They have installed mercury-containing lamp deactivators, and the work is already beginning on a battery recycling project. The tasks are to have a collection point for these batteries in each district, so that toxic substances from them do not get into the soil, into the aquifer. These are all elements of circular economy.

We must not just extract raw materials but learn to reuse what remains of solid municipal waste, and in this direction all of humanity should move, and we too

Our republic has been declared the most reliable environmental partner among all 85 subjects of the Russian Federation. This is, of course, a good result, but it also imposes responsibility. We need to keep working. Manufacturers should also be responsible. The trend is also set by the ministry of natural resources of Russia. We still have a lot of work to do, but the main thing is our citizens, our residents, who are responsible for nature.

When ecology begins to come to the fore — it speaks about the civilization of society. When society asks itself questions about what will happen tomorrow, what water, air, soil they will leave to their children — this is civilisation. By the way, in the pandemic, our residents still went out to restore order in the yards, in the forest, near water bodies. This clearly demonstrates the attitude of Tatarstan people to what surrounds us.

Official partner:

By Lyudmila Gubaeva. Photo: Maksim Platonov
Tatarstan