Moscow is half-surrounded by swamps and deep bogs that were drained in the 1960s for agricultural use, afforestation and mining of peat as fuel for power plants. Drained peatlands also are situated in a number of regions in the west and far east of Russia. During summer droughts, these drained peatlands become the environments for the most troublesome and suppression-resistive kind of wildland fire: deep-seated underground peat fires. The rate of peat fire occurrences has reduced in the recent past, but in the 2002 fire season, fires emerged in frightening numbers across West Russia, making cities suffocate in smokes, damaging communication cables and gas pipelines.
The government firmly decided to get rid of this peat fire trouble radically and forever. The Ministry of Natural Resources' Peat Fire Elimination Program's key point is the re-watering of non-exploited drained peatlands, converting them back into their natural state. The re-watering methods include demolition of old drainage systems and development of some land management measures for water capture. To prevent decay of forest stands grown on peatlands, the drainage systems of these areas must be re-engineered so as to provide the equilibrium of rain/runoff after having reached 93% moisture content of the peat layer. Local projects of a cost of up to one million rubles were developed and officially approved by Oct. 1, with main on-site project works accomplished before winter, and the dampening of peat completed by summer.
Tatiana Minaeva, Russian coordinator with the Wetland International Program, said each case of peatland re-watering should be considered individually by experienced land management specialists. Small-scale bog restoration projects in the Taldomski District of Moscow Region and in Vladimir Region, which were accomplished in cooperation with ecologists, showed satisfying results. But extensive re-watering operations with even treatment of different lands, guided by administration officers, may cause various adverse effects.