Road construction in Russia is always connected with negative ecological consequences. Is it possible to do one without the other?
Environmental interest groups of Moscow and the Moscow region are raising the alarm: according to ecologists, the construction of the CRR (Central Ring Road) will irreversibly damage the region’s natural resources. That is why the ecologists propose freezing the project. The “Avtodor” GC has quite the opposite standpoint. Their attitude is straightforward: the road’s construction must be continued, as the Moscow region will not be able to cope with its huge traffic without it. As the road builders have taken the floor on our pages more than once, we’ll now listen what the project’s opponents have to say.
The road kills forests
According to Georgy Fiodorov, a member of the Public Chamber, the number of complaints connected with the CRR construction from Moscow region residents is growing day by day. People are worried that the environment is being killed, first of all, the forests.
Member of the International Environmental Union, Elena Rodina, thinks that of all the options for the road project, designers chose the most harmful for the Moscow region’s nature.
65% of the road is being laid on forest territory, which demands cutting down 5,000-6,000 hectares. Thus the whole territory inside the ring will turn into a vast metropolis, and no future plantings will save the situation.
The several thousand hectares to be cut fulfill the most important environment needs: land and water protection, sanitary-hygienic protection and health protection functions, says Vadim Karavaev, senior associate of the geomorphology laboratory of the Geography Institute of the RAS, and continues: forests being cut down will negatively influence the ecological situation and environmental conditions in Moscow and the Moscow region.
There are options with reduced impact on the Moscow region’s environment, ecologists think, and another way – cheaper and more efficient – might have been chosen. There are two open concrete rings – the so-called small and large concrete roads – in the Moscow region. If they were to be updated, it would be cheaper and the forests need not be killed.
Alexei Yaroshenko, Director of Greenpeace forest programs, adheres to this standpoint. He is worried about both the direct and indirect consequences. The construction itself, he claims, will inevitably lead to forest area destruction along the road. The road will attract new residents to the region which, in its turn, will enhance the load on the eco-system, which has already reached its potential.
Besides, such large-scale construction impacts upon the condition of underground water. It results in water leaving wells, and a situation may arise when we will be short of drinking water.
The example of the Volga, which became shallower after forests were cut down along the banks, must teach us something, thinks Yury Medovar, senior assistant at the Institute for Water Problems at the RAS.
From Russia to Moscovia
Road construction is known to be followed by economic development and population growth, but it is not all good news for the Moscow region. There, a comparatively small territory is overpopulated. The construction of the CRR and the New Moscow development will result in population density and an intensity increase in economic activity.
Instead of unloading the region, it is being populated even more intensively, thus depopulating neighboring areas.
If we drive 300—400 km (sometimes even less) away from the capital, many of its residents will be surprised to see vast unpopulated territories — almost like in Siberia and the Far East (which, by the way, annually loses dozens of thousands of residents and has to attract new ones by special measures, eg “The Far Eastern Hectare”). Many people coming to Central Russia settle in the Moscow region, and it does not serve the interests of the country as a whole.
Moscow and the Moscow region is only 0.27% of the territory of Russia, but 20% of the country’s population now lives there, and the figure is growing. Experts have calculated that if the population growth rate remains the same in the coming half century, in 50 years there will be 100m people in the region - and Russia may then be called Moscovia, as it used to be long ago.
A vicious circle
So we are in a vicious circle: the more roads are constructed, the more new residents are attracted to the region. Traffic grows and this results in a demand for additional roads. With such a policy, nature will not be able to bear the burden.
To our mind, a very sensible proposal was offered by a famous economist, the director of the Institute for Globalization and Social Movements, Boris Kagalitsky. He thinks that it is time to construct roads not around Moscow, but around the Moscow region. It will both unburden the transit traffic in the region and will trigger the transport development of the neighboring regions.
— From my point of view, the CRR prevents the economic development of the region, he claimed at the recent hearings in the Public Chamber, where the issues of the CRR’s construction were considered. — It is necessary to build the road not around Moscow, but around the Moscow region, and develop the cities of the Central Federal Area, which are lacking finance.
However, this does not suit some people. The land in the Moscow region is far more expensive than in the neighboring ones, and more money may be made.
As a result of the round table meeting “The CRR project: pros and cons”, the Public Chamber has accepted the decision to send notification to the RF Government and “Avtodor” GC on stopping the project’s implementation, as it is harmful and dangerous. There are other options for improving the transport conditions of the region, which were ignored.
It is difficult to foresee the final result of the situation’s development, but we shall keep track of it.