Russia faces social upheaval due to scorching heat: Experts

Last Updated: Monday, July 19, 2010 - 21:32

Moscow: Unprecedented heat wave and
drought in major agro regions of Russia could lead to grave
social and economic consequences and would aggravate the
economic crisis in the country, top experts have warned.

The government has imposed economic emergency in 17
major grain and vegetable producing regions as the mercury
touched 40 degree Celsius mark in the worst ever drought since
1972.

Specialists already say that the current summer
temperatures in the country are the highest in 130 years.

"Abnormal heat could lead not only the drop in the
grain harvest but also more serious consequences extending far
beyond the agriculture sector and would aggravate the economic
crisis," warns Boris Kagarlitsky, the Director of Institute of
Globalisation and Social Movements (IGSO).

"The government`s attempts to control food prices
would lead to the shrinking of market. Black market and
possible growth of grain moving out of the regions would lead
to popular discontent," Kagarlitsky was quoted as saying by
`Noviye Izvestia` daily.

Meanwhile, a senior government official has conceded
that the drought in Central and South Russia may spur
inflation and rise in the food prices.

"We should assess the scale of the drought. If the
grain harvest amounts to 80-85 million tonnes, quite an
optimistic assessment, it should have no significant impact on
inflation," said Andrei Klepach, the Deputy Economic Minister.

"If the harvest is lower, it will not affect the
August figures, but will do so from September to November," he
was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.

The Russian Grain Union has reduced its 2010 grain
forecast to 81.5-85 million tonnes from 85 million tonnes,
leaving its export forecast unchanged at 20 million tonnes.

With mercury stuck at 30 degrees Celsius and above in
Moscow for six-weeks in a row, in regions south of the capital
it is hovering around 40 degrees, scorching the scanty growth
on the parched fields.

Although normal for countries like India, the 30-40
degree temperatures are 10-15 degrees above the usual summer
temperatures in Moscow, the city least prepared to beat the
heat.

The abnormal heat has already killed a fifth of
Russia`s crops and higher grain prices threaten to push
inflation up later in the year, Vedomosti daily reported last
week.

This July will become one of the hottest months in the
history of meteorological observations in Russia.

There is hardly any wind in the Russian capital, which
leads to the concentration of toxic substances and dirt in the
air, which has been further aggravated by the smoke from
subsoil fires in the surrounding peat bogs.

A ride in the Moscow metro, always considered to be
the coolest place in summers, has turned into a ride in hell.

PTI



First Published: Monday, July 19, 2010 - 21:32

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