President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an overhaul of environmental regulations Monday, a rare issue on which he has staked a claim to independence from Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Medvedev ordered the government to draft a new 20-year environmental plan and to introduce compulsory environmental classes in schools, the Kremlin said in a statement. Compulsory environmental studies on new building projects, dropped in 2007 amid a building boom, must be re-imposed, he said.
The government also was ordered to create a survey of environmental damage and a list of proposals to alleviate it, including in the Amur River, where Russia says Chinese factories have dumped toxic waste in recent years. The orders were drafted after a closed government meeting headed by Medvedev late last month, the statement said. Medvedev last month criticized Putin's government for allowing the environment to slip to the bottom of its agenda and said he would throw the weight of his presidency behind fixing it, although he did not criticize Putin by name.
A Greenpeace report last week warned that the environmental situation in Russia has deteriorated markedly during the economic boom of the last decade. It cited Interior Ministry figures to show that the number of environmental crimes had tripled in 2000-2009. Greenpeace Russia campaign director Ivan Blokov said Medvedev's moves on the environment were welcome, but warned that progressive regulations had been ignored in the past. "The current environmental doctrine was adopted in 2002, and it contained very reasonable statements which we liked," Blokov said. "As far as I know, few of the provisions have been fulfilled so far."