Russia - Environment
Decades of Soviet mismanagement have resulted in the catastrophic pollution of land, air, rivers, and seacoasts, although the USSR did manage reforestation with some success. Air pollution is especially a problem in the Urals and Kuznetsk (where vast populations are exposed to hazardous emissions from metal-processing plants) as well as in the Volga and Moscow regions. In 1992 Russia had the world's third highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, which totaled 2.1 billion metric tons, a per capita level of 14.11 metric tons. In 1996, the total dropped to 1.5 billion metric tons.
About 75% of Russia's surface water is unsuitable for drinking. The Volga River has been damaged through rash exploitation of hydroelectric power. Lake Baikal is the largest fresh water reservoir in the world, but has been heavily polluted through agricultural and industrial development. Accidental and intentional dumping of radioactive materials in the 1950s and 1960s had left several areas still uninhabitable as of 1990.
About 3.1% of Russia's total land area was protected as of 2001. The same year, there were 31 mammal species, 38 bird species, and 129 species of plants listed as threatened. Endangered species include Atlantic sturgeon, beluga, crested shelduck, Amur leopard, Siberian tiger, Mediterranean monk seal, Wrangel lemming, and the Oriental stork. The great auk, Palla's cormorant, and Steller's sea cow have become extinct.