former ussr - the stench of capitalism


Everyone knows how much better life is in the former Soviet Union since the collapse of socialism — don't they?

So much raw sewage is being discharged into the Baltic sea from St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) — millions of gallons every year — that about 1500 square miles of the Gulf of Finland on the sea bed is devoid of oxygen and hence of life. Now the EU is using £34 million in grants in addition to three times that in loans from European banks to pay for sewage treatment to stem the flow.

How did things get so bad? In the 1970s the Soviet government built an artificial island in the shallow waters outside the city to process 75% of the city's sewage, and began to build two new sewage works to deal with the rest. In 1991 the Soviet government collapsed. The first works was abandoned, and the second, although it was completed, never ran at full capacity because nobody would pay for a giant connector pipe to link it to the city.

So it's all to do with collapsing socialism...Except that in London, Environment Agency figures show that more than 12 million cubic metres of raw sewage were discharged into the Thames between April and August this year. On 3 August alone, 886,000 cubic metres were discharged, killing thousands of fish and threatening the health of Londoners. There are up to 60 discharges a year.

Experts know how to deal with the problem — an interceptor tunnel, which would take about 10 years to build and cost around £1.5 billion. But Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, turned the solution down in early October. The department had no alternative long-term solution to offer in exchange.