Green city
Rostislav Goncharov
Deputy Head of the Department for Environmental Protection, Forestry, Agriculture and Industry of the Sochi city administration

Green city

The current year 2022 was declared the Year of Ecology in Sochi. Over a hundred events in all spheres of the resort city’s life will be held, it’s no wonder, because more than 80 percent of the city’s area is occupied by specially protected natural areas (SPNAs). Sochi is surrounded by the Black Sea and the Caucasus Mountains, more than 60 rivers flow in Sochi, and over a hundred unique natural attractions are located in the city. The main slogan of the Sochi’s large-scale environmental programme is “Green city, clean sea, clean sky, clean air,” Rostislav Goncharov, Deputy Head of the Department for Environmental Protection, Forestry, Agriculture and Industry of the Sochi city administration, speaks about what will be done in the main Russian resort city in the Year of Ecology.

- The first thing that guests coming to Sochi see is magnificent palm trees, green magnolias, slender cypresses. However, the green beauty of the resort city is endangered today due to various invasive pests brought to the city with planting materials. What measures are planned to be taken in the Year of Ecology to preserve the gorgeous trees and plants?

- The spreading of insect pests is extremely dangerous for Sochi. In the last ten years, dozens of pests that are new to the city area have been identified in Sochi that destroy palm trees, eucalyptus, boxwood, and garden plants. This is a serious threat to the unique nature of the resort city. At the beginning of 2021, thanks to the initiative of Alexander Kozlov, Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation, measures were developed to protect the subtropical flora of Sochi from invasive pests. The Ministry of Natural Resources prepared clarifications regarding the possible use of entomophages and chemicals in the city and in the protected areas. The results of the experiments showed that the treatment of plantations had a great effect, but a range of works was still required to get a long-term effect. Therefore, a phytosanitary monitoring programme was developed with the participation of the heads of the Caucasian State Natural Biosphere Reserve, the Sochi National Park, the Subtropical Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences. At the first stage, an inventory of the green plants will be done. All dead trees must be removed and properly disposed of. Phytosanitary monitoring will help to make a clear plan for widespread treatments that will be carried out simultaneously in all the areas. At the same time, nurseries with local planting materials - trees and shrubs that have been growing in Sochi for a long time - are expanding in the city. This is a long-term project, the effect of which will be seen in a decade when the seedlings are strong and ready for planting. The creating of a quarantine site in Sochi is also under consideration where it will be possible to keep all the plants imported into the city to identify their possible damage by pests. This work will be launched in Sochi in the Year of Ecology and the preparations are underway now.

- Will new trees be planted?

- Sure. Fifty thousand seedlings are to be planted in Sochi in the Year of Ecology, including at the reintroduction sites for the Colchis boxwood regeneration. 13 district forestry units will continue the implementation of the programme for the chestnut forest regeneration approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources of Russia. In the Year of Ecology, up to ten new specially protected natural areas will be established in Sochi. At the first stage, three zones were identified, including a 2.24-hectare square in Constitution Street along the Sochi River, a 0.96-hectare Chekist (Security Men) Square near the Moskva Hotel, and a 0.9-hectare Square in October Street in the Khostinsky District. These are urban green areas, popular with the Sochi’s residents and guests, which should be documented as specially protected natural areas in February. The new status precisely defines the permitted and prohibited activities in these areas, protects green spaces where perennial trees and shrubs grow.

- In addition to the SPNAs, ecozones should appear in the city. What will they be?

- An ecozone is an open urban area, the improvement of which is carried out according to eco-standards, so, resource-saving communications are laid, solar panels are used, park furniture made of recycled materials is installed. Here, the guests can comfortably spend their time, and at the same time, be sure that this comfort is provided with a minimum negative impact on nature. In the Year of Ecology, one such ecozone will appear in every district of the city.

- What tourist attractions in Sochi will be upgraded in 2022?

- This year, it is planned to upgrade 10 tourist attractions at the Sochi National Park, such as Volkonsky dolmen, Orliniye (Eagle) rocks, Agur waterfalls, Mount Akhun, Azhek Ecopath, Orekhovskiye waterfalls, Zmeykovskiye waterfalls, 33 waterfalls, Psedakh and Shapsug waterfalls, the village of Najigo. The upgrading will include equipping the facilities with autonomous toilet modules, turnstiles, as well as new visitor checkpoints, in addition, design work is underway to equip comfortable and safe recreation areas, viewing platforms, bridges and wooden walkways. The Volkonsky Dolmen will become a pilot project in the modernization of the tourist facilities. Another well-known historical route “Agura-Eagle Rocks” will undergo changes and it will become a ring tour for the first time. The famous Arboretum with the richest collection of trees from five continents takes a special place among the tourist attractions of the Sochi National Park. In 2022, the 130th anniversary of the Park will be celebrated. This is a special milestone, and large-scale festivals, environmental education campaigns and various events are planned for the city’s residents and visitors, including the youngest audience.

- One of the mottoes of the Year of Ecology in Sochi is “Clean Sea”. What will this include?

- First of all, it should be said that the comprehensive programme for the development of Sochi until 2030 implies the modernization of the city’s infrastructure. The priority is the renewal of its water disposal, water supply and bank protection systems. Twelve priority facilities are planned as part of the comprehensive programme implementation aimed at the socio-economic development of Sochi. The programme includes providing water supply to the Blagodat housing estate and the village of Verkhnenikolaevskoye. In the period up to 2024, water supply and sanitation networks will be made in the Molodezhny housing estate in the Lazarevsky District of Sochi. During the same period, water supply will be provided to land plots allocated to large families in Kudepst, as well as in the Vardan and Ashe villages. A main sewer collector will be made to provide centralized water disposal in the Sobolevka housing estate in the Khostinsky District, as well as the main water conduit from the reservoirs in the Chaifabrika housing estate to Kudepsta. Starting next year, a set of operations on the bank protection and backfilling of beach areas will be started in the village of Loo and the Lazarevsky District of Sochi. Funds will be allocated for the reconstruction of seven sewage treatment facilities located in the city, as well as for the construction of an integrated water disposal system for the Central District of Sochi.

- How many beaches in Sochi will qualify for the Blue Flag international certificate this year?

- Now, 33 beaches in Sochi have Blue Flag environmental certificates. In these areas, the environmental education is being supported, the separate waste collection was introduced, and additional environmental water tests are being carried out by Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare). In 2022, it is planned to receive 35 certificates under the Blue Flag programme. One of these areas will be determined for the arrangement of the first eco-beach in Sochi. The beach equipment made of recycled plastics will be installed here, a “smart” shower with an automatic system for rational water consumption will be equipped, solar panels will be used, as well as shade canopies made from the fabric that can be recycled. These practices will gradually be adopted by tenants of other beach areas.

- One of the major environmental problems in Sochi is associated with waste disposal. Unfortunately, the Zero Waste programme implemented for the 2014 Olympics (when all the garbage was taken out of the city to the landfill in Belorechensk) did not prove efficient. What steps will be taken to solve the issues of waste collection and recycling?

- At present, up to 1,000 tonnes of garbage are removed daily from the Sochi’s waste container sites. Therefore, the city thinks the waste disposal and recycling to be essential. The reserves of landfills in the Krasnodar Territory where all Sochi garbage is taken to are limited. And new standards and technologies will be used to solve this problem in the Year of Ecology. Now, with the support of Veniamin Ivanovich Kondratiev, Governor of the Krasnodar Territory, the building of a modern full-cycle waste recycling facility in Sochi is under consideration. The programme includes the construction of the necessary infrastructure for the separate waste collection, including industrial sorting and composting of organic matters. Similar projects have already been successfully implemented in Tatarstan and the Moscow Region. These technologies are widely used in Switzerland, France, Germany, and many other countries. Recycling facilities will make it possible to avoid new landfills, as well as to close and reclaim the existing ones. The city is developing a system for the separate waste collection and recycling of solid household waste. Particular attention is paid to plastics. About 750 containers for the collection and recycling of plastic bottles are installed at almost all waste container sites in Sochi. The installing of 50 waste containers for glass is under consideration. There are also new small-scale but important initiatives. For example, stylized waste containers looking as palm trees have been installed on Primorsky Beach to collect plastic caps. They are best suited for recycling. The collected material is transferred to the companies that have started the manufacture of benches from them.

- Recently, the country’s first fleet of electric taxi cars appeared in Sochi. The city has launched a pilot programme for the development of electric vehicles in the country. How will the transport industry of the resort city change in the Year of Ecology?

- The effect of transport on the environment is one of the most urgent problems of our time. When concluding contracts for the implementation of scheduled passenger services by municipal buses, as well as when conducting competitive procedures in this area, special requirements are imposed on the Sochi’s municipal vehicles: the environmental class of buses must be minimum Euro-5. Today, there are 122 routes in Sochi. Every day, over 800 vehicles (high, medium and low class) operate in passenger service, of which 60% comply with Euro-5 standards, including 103 units running on methane fuel. In 2021, 40 new high-class low-floor buses of the Volgabus brand - working on natural gas and running Sochi-Adler-Olympic Park - were added to the bus fleet of one of the automobile companies. The construction of two additional automobile compressed natural gas filling stations is already planned. The most suitable land plots have already been identified in the Central and Adler districts of Sochi. Since June 2021, the resort city has been conducting trial operation of the E321 electric bus that arrived from Belarus where it had been successfully used for almost five years. It is equipped with air conditioners, chargers for mobile phones, and video monitors. This model has a battery life of at least 70 kilometres per charge. It takes no more than 25 minutes to fully charge the electric bus. The electric bus is being tested on route No. 17. This year, it is planned to test another electric bus in Sochi - a prototype public electric vehicle of the KamAZ brand. The electric bus offered by the company is designed according to the standards of a barrier-free environment. The tests will show the performance of these buses on the Sochi’s roads, whether they will be popular with the Sochi citizens and vacationers.