by Yuri Shirokov
Novosibirsk Oblast, located on the south-east of Western Siberia, enjoys a favorable geographical position in Siberia and a solid economic position in Russia. More than half of the 2.8 million Oblast population lives in Novosibirsk and its environs. Heavy exploitation of Oblast natural resources in the economy have resulted in extreme demands on the environment.
Though numerous, the rivers and lakes cannot currently meet the regional demand for fresh water. Water supplies are decreasing, while water pollution is rising. About 60 percent of 1995 arable land comprised agricultural areas, though misuse of the land resulted in erosion and ravine formation.
The greatest danger for forests is fire, along with specific wood diseases and air pollution. 1,231 species of plants and 3,210 kinds of animals live in the Oblast. A number of rare plant species have disappeared or are on the verge of extinction. Animal species also suffer from human influence, especially in regions where people work and explore oil deposits and in partially-wooded steppe districts.
Novosibirsk is one of the top fifteen cities with the most air and water pollution in Russia. Though air pollution is lower in Novosibirsk than in neighboring Omsk and Kemerovo, it nonetheless stands at five times higher than in Russia as a whole.
Other serious environmental problems of the Oblast are dumping,
safe storage, and where to store solid domestic wastes, along
with radon protection. Novosibirsk is the only Russian city of
one million or more built on naturally radioactive rocks having
radon-222 as a fission product. In addition, the Semipalatinsk
nuclear tests and accident of 1993 at the neighboring Siberian
Chemical Complex (Tomsk-7) have greatly influenced the population's
health in several districts. Various environmental pollution in
the Oblast and a generally unfavorable social and economic background
have provoked increased sick rates, especially among children,
the elderly, and pregnant women (since 1980, for example, cancer
rate has gone up by 1.5 times).