Dirty business. Moscow Government to launch another huge landfill
The waste management issue is actual for many metropolises worldwide, and Moscow is not an exception. However, the Russian capital managed to distinguish itself – it is going to solve the problem in the most environmentally harmful way possible.
As soon as the Governor of the Moscow Region has closed, under pressure from the President, Kuchino landfill site, the Moscow Government became concerned with the dumping issue. The approach taken by the Moscow officials turned out to be totally different. It is necessary to keep in mind that troubled Kuchino landfill site wouldn’t become an environmental disaster if it were used, as intended, to dump waste from Balashikha only. However, 90% of solid domestic waste from the capital had been dumped there. The closure of the landfill site was a celebration for the entire Moscow region – and a headache for the Moscow Government.
Notorious Kuchino landfill site
In early October, the officials have announced some good news for Moscow residents: a landfill site with the area of 65 ha will be built only 40 km from the Moscow Ring Road. The capacity of the new dumping site will be 6.5 million tons. Some one million tons will be dumped there on the annual basis. This news was especially joyous for residents of New Moscow – more specifically, for people living in Chirikovo village (4 km from the future dumping ground) and Troitsk (10 km from it). The Moscow Government turned out to be merciless not only to the people, but to the nature as well – the future landfill site embraces the territory of the Troitsk forest miraculously saved from felling by Moscow residents two years ago. Now a portion of the forested area is to be cleared to establish a dumping site entitled Malinki (Raspberries).
The point is that Malinki waste dump is well-known to the Troitsk residents. It used to be a small landfill site with the area of 8 ha closed after the complete exhaustion of its capacity. The environmentalists have registered pollution and soil degradation on 47 ha of lands surrounding Malinki. The haste is understandable. Back in 2013, the Government of the Moscow Region had announced ambitious plans to shut down all the solid domestic waste landfills by 2015. The rosy future promises have been forgotten, and after the story with Kuchino, it became clear that it is pointless to rely on the Government of the Moscow Region.
The new dumping site is to be established on the territory of the Troitsk forest saved by Moscow residents
The national capital was not as ambitious as the surrounding region and, instead of establishing a new solid waste landfill in a safe place, decided to revive Malinki. There is some innovation in this project though. In the past, Malinki was intended for dumping waste of the lowest classes IV and V – but according to the design documentation, the new polygon will include grounds for machinery with higher radiation levels. The new dumping site is to be commissioned in April 2018. Gasan Gasangadzhiev, Head of the Department of Housing, Utilities, and Amenities of the City of Moscow, told residents of New Moscow displeased with such a ‘renovation’ of the landfill site that some filters are to be installed on the polygon to protect the surroundings from pollution. The official’s behavior had clearly implied that no one is going to take the public opinion into account. The municipal authorities uphold the idea to revive Malinki as passionately as the demolition of five-storey buildings.
The Federal Law No. 89-FZ of June 24, 1998 on Production and Consumption Waste was the first obstacle to the dumping site revival. It prohibits the construction of landfills within the boundaries of inhabited localities. Malinki is officially located in Krasnopakhorskoe village and falls under that category. The inconvenient prohibition has been dealt with surprisingly quickly. On July 3, 2017, a small but monumental amendment to the law has been approved enabling the usage of earlier established waste polygons within the boundaries of inhabited localities. The permission to pollute towns and villages is in effect until January 1, 2025. A comparison of the planned landfill commissioning date, its increased capacity, and annual volumes of waste to be dumped there indicates that the operation of Malinki is about to come to an end by the end of 2024.
It is necessary to note that the well-timed amendments have been made to a federal law – not to municipal legislation. At the moment, the only party interested in these amendments is the Moscow Government. Why is the dump site within the boundaries of New Moscow so important? In order to breathe a new life into Malinki, the Moscow Government has promptly allocated over 3.4 billion rubles ($58.3 million). This sum is being spent in a pretty interesting way.
In September 2017, the Main Department of State Expertise Federal Autonomous Institution (Glavgosexpertiza) has approved the construction of Malinki Solid Waste Landfill on the basis of the closed dumping site. The project includes the creation of grounds for machinery with higher radiation levels. The first tender pertaining to the polygon construction has been launched back in April and finished on June 1, 2017.
In other words, the Mayor’s Office has selected one of the contractors a few months before the construction project approval.
The governmental acquisitions for Malinki require special attention. Out of the 23 tenders carried out in the framework of the landfill construction, 3 bidding rounds seem truly special. Traditionally, all of those have been won by sole bidders. The amounts of these contracts vary from 350 to 457 million rubles ($6–7.8 million) – i.e. the three tenders cover some one-third of the total project cost. The largest bidding has been won by Merkator Holding.
According to the the Anti-Corruption Foundation, Merkator Holding is affiliated with Petr Biryukov, Deputy Mayor of Moscow for Housing, Utilities, Amenities, and Improvement. There are no direct links between the company owners and Biryukov, but Merkator Holding was involved into the ‘spending’ of almost 12 billion rubles ($205.9 million) allocated for newly-established Avtomobil’nye Dorogi (Motor Ways) State Budgetary Institution. To get access to the billions received by Avtomobil’nye Dorogi, the company had used all the possible means, including complaints to the Federal Antimonopoly Service of the Russian Federation to eliminate competitors at the tenders.
Merkator Holding is affiliated with Petr Biryukov
Sim-AVTO company – the winner of a tender to supply machinery for Malinki polygon worth 350.7 million rubles ($6 million) – features a similarly aggressive strategy. It frequently uses the Federal Antimonopoly Service to eliminate rival contenders. Sim-AVTO is a major supplier of machinery for the Federal Agency for Special Construction (Spetsstroy of Russia) and above-mentioned Avtomobil’nye Dorogi State Budgetary Institution. The third tender worth 457 million rubles ($7.8 million) has been won by United Energy Company involved into a multibillion embezzlement of funds allocated to ROSATOM State Atomic Energy Corporation.
In fact, all these governmental acquisitions have been conducted after the completion of new Malinki polygon construction. A satellite photo clearly shows huge dumping grounds and outbuildings for the personnel. An altitude survey confirms this. The video camera, however, failed to record the special filters capturing emissions and bad odors promised by Gasan Gasangadzhiev. The persistency of the officials is easily understandable: a ‘spending project’ worth 3.4 billion rubles ($58.3 million) may herald a new era – there are plenty of such polygons in Moscow that can be ‘revived’ in a similar way.
Residents of New Moscow have already collected dozens of thousands of signatures against the commissioning of the new landfill site. The petition is to be submitted to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of the Russian Federation whose ignorance of the situation is highly unlikely.
Saburova believes that the Russian authorities violated articles 2 and 5 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, guaranteeing the right to life, as well as the right to freedom and personal inviolability.