Essay on Erosion and Degradation of Land and Water in Russia

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George Washington University
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Russia has experienced substantial erosion and degradation greatly accelerated by activities that are unplanned and uncontrolled. Some emanate from the Soviet Union and passed on to the now Federation of Russia. Russia has a significant challenge in managing her natural resources. In the Soviet Union, oil pipeline burst and the situation was not addressed, and corrective measures failed as at that time. The officials responsible had the belief that Russia had abundant natural resources to afford wastage. They also believed that the land could easily absorb any pollution levels. Government officials thought that using resources to correct that situation was a waste of time and that money could better be used for economic development. In the 1990's the government noted that about 20% of Russia was ecologically stressed. Most areas were identified as having been degraded and polluted. Issues identified by Russian experts that caused devastating harm to the environment included:

Dnepropetrovsk-Donets and Kuznets coal mining and metallurgical centers polluted the water and large areas of land.

The Urals industrial region has severe air and water pollution and radioactive contamination near Kyshtym city.

Non-ferrous mining and metallurgical operations in Kola Peninsula in the North West part of Russia have led to abundant air pollution.

Poor agricultural practices in the Republic of Kalmykia industrial pollution where high levels of pollution from industrial related pollutants of low levels of radioactive waste contribute immensely to air, land and water pollution.

The government officials identified five areas as having been profoundly affected by water pollution. They include the Black Sea, the Caspian Sea, and the sea of the Azof north of the black sea, the Volga river and Lake Baikal. Land and water degradation is experienced dramatically in Russia's major natural ecosystems which include:

Tundra region where extraction and transportation of mineral resources pause significant environmental challenges.

The northern Marshland ecosystems which are destroyed by oil spills, leakages of natural gas in the pipelines and the flaring of natural gas.

The Reindeer grazing lands in which the ingenious people lived and depended on for their livelihoods.

Along the Steppe {Temperate grassland zones} where the soils have been severely exhausted, rampant humus losses and erosion which cause major environmental hazards. Overgrazing is also uncontrolled here which is also degrading the land.( Paz, Rodriguez, et al. 2016).

The Biome in Which the Degradation and Erosion is Happening

A biome is a unique habitat that is home to many unique forms of life. The biomes of the world have similar climatic characteristics concerning weather patterns and temperature experience. Russia has several biomes that include among others;

The Steppe biome (Temperate grasslands) -Is severely affected by the deterioration of soils due to overgrazing.

The Tundra biome

Freshwater biome comprises of the many rivers and lakes which are affected by pollution, surface runoff, industrial waste dumping, and overfishing.

Marine biome- Involves Seas and lakes.

Continued exploitation of these biomes has led to severe implications. Irrigation practices are deplorable and salinization, pollution and contamination of surface and underground water especially along Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan (Smelansky & Tishkov, 2012).

Water Quality

Russia is endowed with plenty of inland water resources as well as the surrounding oceans. Russian officials did little to protect these resources from pollution and degradation. Water treatment facilities are not fully functional to treat water for domestic use as most of these facilities are either inefficient or obsolete. These facilities cannot handle high volumes of materials that pass through them and finances to repair them are not available.

Effects of Degradation and Erosion to the People

Research has established that many rivers in Russia are carriers of water-borne diseases. In 1995, cholera-causing bacteria was discovered in Moscow river by the Moscow city Health officials. Other diseases related to water contamination and sewerage include cholera, salmonella, typhoid fever, dysentery and viral hepatitis in many rivers of Russia.

Land degradation water pollution water scarcity

Remedial Action

Russians have been advised to boil all its water before use. There is also the importation of clean water from other republics.

The Agricultural sector is also playing a major role in contributing to degradation and pollution through overuse of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. This was experienced in large scale during the Soviet era where dioxin, a carcinogen was used as an insecticide. It tainted rural wells, dioxin which enters the body through drinking water was identified as a health risk to many Russians. In 1992, 994 cases of water bodies having been contaminated by surface agricultural runoff were reported. This drainage led to numerous deaths of fish and contamination of groundwater. This death of fish was most experienced in Kama, Kubari, Oka Ural rivers.

Lake Ladoga, which is Europe's largest freshwater lake, has been polluted by tonnes of heavy metals and other toxic substances that are discharged into local rivers. The shores of L. Ladoga have been used as storage sites for fertilizers, livestock waste, chemicals and radioactive waste. When local rivers that have their source as Lake Ladoga reach the Gulf of Finland, the various chemicals in the waters change the oxygen balance in the Gulf.

A limited number of fish species remain in the Black sea which once was home to over 26 species of fish. Recent studies in the black sea have shown that it is on the verge of death because only about 10% of its near surface water contains sufficient oxygen to sustain life

Steps Taken To Arrest Degradation and Erosion of Land and Water in Russia

In 1992, the states of Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine agreed to take measures through the signing of an agreement to protect the Black Sea and its tributaries that flow through their territories. (Zuazo & Pleguezuelo, 2008)

Gabion construction Good agricultural practices


Paz, C. G., Rodriguez, T. T., BehanPelletier, V. M., Hill, S. B., VidalTorrado, P., & Cooper, M. (2016). Encyclopedia of soil science.

Zuazo, V. H. D., & Pleguezuelo, C. R. R. (2008). Soil-erosion and runoff prevention by plant covers. A review. Agronomy for sustainable development, 28(1), 65-86.

Smelansky, I. E., & Tishkov, A. A. (2012). The Steppe biome in Russia: Ecosystem services, conservation status, and actual challenges. In Eurasian Steppes. Ecological problems and livelihoods in a changing world (pp. 45-101). Springer Netherlands.

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