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Environment and health
The Russian Federation has a long history of serious environmental accidents, especially in the fuel and chemical industries.
The largest rivers in the country – Volga, Don, Kuban, Amur, Northern (Svernaya) Dvina, Pechora, Ural, Ob and Yenisey – are considered polluted. Some of their major tributaries – Kama, Donets, Tom, Irtysh, Tobol and Miass – are classified as ‘highly polluted’, while several water bodies are considered ‘extremely polluted’ (OECD, 2013).
The poor state of water supply systems owned by the state and the poor quality of drinking water is publicly admitted, particularly regarding the regions of the Russian Arctic, Siberia and Far East (Dudarev et al, 2013). About 11 million residents of the Russian Federation use water, which is unsuitable for drinking. One third of the population uses poor quality water daily (RWA, 2016).
In rural areas, more than one-third of the population uses drinking water from non-centralized sources. The quality of this water is low due to weak protection of aquifers from pollution from surface areas, the lack of sanitary protection zones, and the delayed repair, cleaning and disinfecting of wells and interception ditches (Dudarev et al, 2013).
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change is likely to affect both the quantity and quality of water in the Russian Federation. On the whole, renewable water resources may increase in the country by 8–10 percent in the next 30 years, though their distribution will become more even. This change will bring certain positive impacts—including for hydroelectric generation. However, managing the increased flows will pose other problems, especially when these increased flows coincide with extreme weather events such as downpours, or springtime ice-clogged floods. In addition, increasing water shortages are predicted for southern parts of European Russia. Moreover, a number of densely populated regions that are already subject to water shortages are expected to face even more pronounced difficulties in decades to come (Climate Adaptation, 2015; OECD, 2013).