Siberian forest, which takes up 1/10 of the world’s forest area is currently endangered. 2 million hectares of forest (approximately the area of such countries as Israel or Slovenia) are burning since June 2019. This fire is currently out of control – Russian authorities are refusing to participate in its extinguishment.
Enormous amount of land and wildlife are engulfed in wildfires and expert’s forecasts are not encouraging – Siberian environmental disaster is threatening to accelerate the melting of the Arctic ice.
Russian territory has 1/5 of the world’s reserves of wood (8149000 sq. m) and Siberia holds half of them.
This means that if proper measures will not be taken – 1/10 of the world’s forests may be gone forever.
Russian authorities refused to help the regions with the fire extinguishment. They motivate their actions by economical reasons, saying that inhabited areas are “not under threat” and “projected extinguishing costs exceed their projected harm”.
If we had cold weather in the winter and there was a blizzard, no one would suggest to drown the icebergs to get warmer.
Alexander Uss, Governor of the Krasnoyarsk Territory
Currently, the problem is that the forest areas engulfed in fires are remote ones. The firefighters can be delivered there and moved from point to point only by plane or helicopter, but there is no gas station next to them or any infrastructure. Equipment cannot be delivered to these territories as well, which makes such extinguishment a manual type of work. Lack of funding leads to the aggravation of the problem and the fires fuelled by unending firewood can continue burning for months, covering bigger territories until the whole amount of wooden fuel is gone.
Another problem which wildfires brought to Siberia is smoke. Thousands of people have to stay indoors due to the exceeded amount of dangerous volatiles.
Smoke has crossed thousands kilometres and has reached the territory of central Kazakhstan. The population of Siberia and nearest regions is literally suffocating due to smoke. Smoke brings unprecedented amount of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere in comparison to all previous years. Estimated June total wildfire CO2 emissions for the Arctic Circle are equivalent to 2017 national fossil fuel CO2 emissions for Bulgaria, Hungary and Sweden altogether.
Even though it is not the first precedent of enormous fires in Siberia region, no preventing measures were taken to avoid such devastating fire.
After tremendous California fires of 2018, fuel breaks (basically – big trenches) around the areas of wildfires were taken as the most effective solution for wildfires prevention. The 2019 wildfire season has been much less active in California than it was a year ago.
Fuel breaks and other fuel modification for wildland fire control can help to diminish the risk and rate of fire spread – prevention is better than the cure.
However, people alone are helpless against the untamed element. Governmental support is a key to stop the violence against our one and only home – the Earth.