News Investigation

Why hasn’t Kobylkin become a prime minister and Kot refused to take the position of the Yamal’s head?

Кобылкина, Дмитрий Кобылкин, губернатор ЯНАО, коррупция

Dmitry Medvedev affirmed the candidacy of the YNAO governor Dmitry Kobylkin for the position of the head of the Ministry of natural resources and ecology. Kobylkin was even expected to be the PM but the decision was different, unexpected and provocative. For the eight years Kobylkin has been the head of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug during which time the ecological situation in this region has become terrible: illegal dump sites take too much space and the water taps of the citizens are full of water which is enriched with iron and manganese. Now Dmitry Kobylkin will be engaged into the ecological situation of the whole country. According to media resources, the head of the Yamal LNG (Yamal СПГ) Evgeniy Kot has refused to take the offered position of the governor. And we guess that the reason is the ‘rich heritage’ of the Kobylkin’s deeds.

In search of life-giving water

The journalists together with the experts from the autonomous noncommercial organization ‘Stolichniy tsentr yuridicheskoy diagnostiki i sudebnoy ekspertisy’ (The metropolitan center of legal diagnostics and legal enquiry) took Yamal’s water samples. The results of the examination confirmed that the water quality fails to meet the Sanitary Regulations and Standards (SanPiN).

For example, the water samples from Urengoy fail to meet the SanPiN standards upon the following indications: permanganate oxidizability (the marker reflects the overall concentration of organiс matters in water) is in excess of 1.53 times, iron content is in excess of 25 (!!!) times, manganese content is in excess of 3.26 times. Also the turbidity and the water color indexes fail to meet the requirements. Less people know that in YNAO the permissible level of iron and manganese content in water has been exceeded of 2 times, but even with these adjustment the quantity of iron and manganese in both samples is over the limits.

Hepatic disorders, heart attack risks and chronic intoxication: what are the other ‘benefits’ of Yamal’s water?

What is hidden behind the cold hard numbers? Medical workers believe that ‘the intake of water with the exceeded amount of iron leads to liver disorders, increases the heart attack risks, negatively affects the reproductive system and is one of the main reasons for allergies’.

And the manganese in the water is able to get inside the small intestine, bones, kidneys, endocrine glands and affects the brain. The result of the continuous water intake with the exceeded amount of the mentioned chemical elements is the chronical intoxication. <…> It is extra dangerous for pregnant women to drink water with high content of manganese.

The UN opinion: the authorities must step in

The international anti-corruption portal has filed a request with the UNEP embassy (the Environmental Program of the United Nations Organization) in Russia and enquired to comment on the results of the water analyses. According to Ekaterina Fegina, media advisor, UNEP can make a move, to start with the experts involvement, but only in case the Russian authorities will ask them to.

“If there was a request sent to the ministry, and if the answer was, for example: ‘we don’t have time for that, we are busy with something different and you should live as you like’, then, unfortunately, we cannot interfere. If the country believes that the health issues of the citizens of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug are not important then it is a question for the local authorities, a kick for them to start pressing and lobbying this issue, because the head of the region must force it into action, this issue can’t be left unsolved because the health of the local people is in the hands of those who have the governance”.

Nowadays Dmitry Kobylkin serving as the minister of Natural Resources shall take all the appropriate steps to have the clean water run from the people’s taps.

Whole Yamal is the hazard zone

The Directorate of the Federal Service on Surveillance for Consumer rights protection and human well-being of YNAO has published a report named “On the condition of the sanitary and epidemiological well-being of the citizens in 2017”. The focus of this report was on the quality of water. The results of the investigations in the whole region surprise and frighten us not less than the sample results from two separate locations.
That way, “852 water sample tests on general sanitary and chemical indexes and 1319 samples on microbiological indexes ‘fail to meet the sanitary regulations for 8.1 per cent. In the municipalities of the autonomous okrug there is a service of 82 utility and drinking water supplies 32 of which (39%) do not meet the sanitary requirements. The excess of the health-based exposure limit of the amount of iron, manganese, rarely ammonia, in the drinking water from the central water supply systems was registered in 172 samples.

Screenshot from blogger Mihail Ronkainen video’s about “Laguna” in Labytnangi

In Shuryshkarskiy region there are no utility and drinking water supplies at all. There are three industrial water pipe-lines in Muzhi, Gorki and Ovgort localities but the last two are seasonable and used for maximum 3 months a year.

In such a case, it is impossible to talk about any positive dynamics in the situation connected to the water quality in the region. For example, in 2014 7.3% of samples didn’t match the requirements. In 2015 this number fell to 5.8%, and in 2016 again increased to 8.1%. Such scatter in the results is a sign of the effect of the external factors and it doesn’t mean that the authorities have done the methodical work, changed the service lines or put the purification facilities into service.

Where do the waste products go?

One more problem of the region is the purification and the sterilizing of the discharged water. According to the data of the Federal Service on Surveillance for Consumer rights protection and human well-being, some purification systems are worn down with use and the purification methods are outdated. Moreover, there are some reasons to suppose that in some of the localities of the region the liquid household waste (LHW) are utilized improperly. For example, in Urengoy the machines which collect and dispose the LHW, drive to the local dump site instead of the purification systems. Our correspondents took a lot of efforts to follow them and to record the video about the rout of the sewage cleaning machine.

Probably it is connected to the fact that on the ground the LHW are not purified but just drained improperly, violating all the possible regulations. And this problem exists in other localities, too. For example, notorious Laguna lake near Labytnangi where most of the town’s waste is poured into. In 2015 the local media kept on writing the articles about the manmade lake of sewage, but the purification systems are still not there. And just a very short while ago this local ‘sightseeing’ again got into the shot. A popular travel blogger Mikhail Ronkainen has shown Laguna on his YouTube channel about life of common people in the richest region of Russia.

Counterterrorism efforts and the media law

To understand what happens in Urengoy the International anti-corruption portal has enquired to the Yamalkommunenergo with the official request. We asked to provide us with the information about the location of the water for the needs of Urengoy and Tarko-Sale, about the way of purification of discharged water and about the regularity of the dump sites locations. But the press service refused to answer our questions citing a Law on Counterterrorism efforts.

However, Yamalkommunenergo is not that silent. Recently in one of the social medias there was published a video shot in the church of Urengoy where the priest refused to consecrate the tap water of the church-goer. This video traveled into local groups in social media and caused the patchy response of users, and some print medias have even published an article on that ‘event’.

Despite the fact that the video got only 1.5 thousand views, the reaction of local authorities, local media and the biggest public utility company Yamalkommunenergo was immediate. Sever-press agency has named the video ‘the Easter fake’ and blamed authors for blasphemy and efforts to defame the priests.

The correspondents asked for the comments not only from the Director of the Communications of the Salekhard Eparchy but also from the head of Urengoy – Oleg Yakimov. In the judgment of Yakimov, ‘there are no quality deviations in the system of cold water supply, there were no complaints from the citizens since 2016. Laboratory tests are held every month, moreover, in 2017 the quality of water was checked by the Federal Service on Surveillance for Consumer rights protection and human well-being, and there were no violations detected.

The whole press release, dedicated to that video, was published by press service of Yamalkommunenergo. The utility providers claimed that ‘in 2015 there was started the service of the water treatment plant, in 2016 in order to improve the quality of the water supply they held works on the technical re-equipping using the modern source water purification technologies’. And the main thing – ‘the tap water quality meets all the norms of SanPiN and that is confirmed with the systematic laboratory tests’.

This information contradicts the report of the Federal Service on Surveillance for Consumer rights protection and human well-being and the results of the independent examination. Why do they continue to misinform the citizens of Yamal when the awful quality of water is glaringly obvious?

Who is going to solve the problem: utility providers or authorities?

Of course, we can understand the civil servants, because the investments into housing and public utilities cannot be compared with the expensive repair in the personal office, for example, in the building of public prosecution office of YNAO in Salekhard. In Salekhard they have done the repair of the hotel two times for public money. Or the ‘golden toilet bowl’ in the residency of ex-governor at the price of 8.3 million roubles (as a matter of curiosity, will the toilet bowl go to the new governor or will travel to Moscow?).

And the drinking water issue in the state institutions can be solved the way the civil servants did in the government of Yamal. They just issued a tender to supply 42 tons of pure drinking water for a total amount of more than 1.5 million roubles.

But anyway, the politics of the authorities in Yamal is as good as a sabotage of the order of Vladimir Putin, the head of the country. In his annual state to the federal assembly the President required to provide the people with the high standards of ecological well-being, making specific mention of fact that millions of people have to drink the water which does not meet the sanitary standards.

However, we can understand the utility providers too, because the repair of the water systems cannot be compared with the capital project which can generate profit and multibillion grants which Yamalkommunenergo gets annually from the budget of the YNAO.  According to media, afterwards these funds are withdrawn from the Yamal’s budget to the offshore. The journalists claim that for this circuit implementation the tariffs have been intentionally uprated twofold. Taking this information into consideration, the fact of the price difference for the utilities (more than 4.5 times) in the YNAO excites interest.

And if the citizens of Yamal are saved from collapse with the help of the grants from the budget, the business there is forced to knuckle under the ineffective administrators from the utility companies and their nontransparent tariffs. For example, the tariff for the cubic meter of cold water set by the department of tariff policy for the Urengoyvodokanal in Noviy Urengoy is 51.68 roubles, but the entrepreneur from Urengoy will pay 241.25 to the Yamalkommunenergo.

But anyway, the high tariffs will be included into the price of any product and will be paid by common people. This situation is common for both water supply and water discharge, and for the electricity supply as well. For example, in Muzhi locality the price for the kilowatt for the citizens and other users has the difference of more than 14 times.

Is it alright to accuse the environment minister for the poaching? 

The governor gained a reputation of the ‘passionate proponent of the environment’ not only at work, but on holiday as well. In February 2017 the publicity saw a video where ‘a man looking like the governor of the YNAO’ is fishing on the territory of the Taimyr conservancy area, catching the arctic char, which is among the critically endangered species. This territory has the status of the biosphere reserve upon a decision of the Presidium of the International coordination Council of the UNESCO program.

Man who “looks like governor Dmitriy Kobylkin” / Novaya gazeta

Press service of the governor and Dmitry Kobylkin himself called this video fake and in the General Prosecutor Office they said that they ‘haven’t found any grounds for organizing the pre-investigation check’. Definitely, in comparison with the damage that is done to the environment of the region by the illegal dump sites and waste disposal, fishing is just nothing. But this ‘nothing’ clearly demonstrates how the new minister observes the ecological regulations and respects the law.

What will happen to the dump sites with Kobylkin in service?

Only Dmitry Kobylkin, the minister, will have to solve such problematic and thorny issues as dump sites in Volokolamsk outside Moscow. This issue has almost become a civilian riot. The pattern of solving the issue with waste in YNAO is clearly seen using the example of the dump site in Noyabrsk city.

A great amount of space is completely covered with waste which is not utilized by anyone, new ground is not yet opened officially, but the waste keeps appearing there, the local people complain about the problems and the authorities of the city put the blame on the public utility companies and on the regional administrations. It seems that now all the citizens of Russia should be prepared for such problems.