Russia faces a host of environmental issues on which the government has been historically slow to act. Their economy is based on very damaging natural resource extraction, such as oil, minerals, timber and agriculture and the focus has been primarily on profits over sustainability. Support from the general public for cleaner air and water regulations has been strong, but tends to wane during times of recession. While environmental laws have been on the books since the early 1990s, complex bureaucracies and an inexperienced judiciary system has hampered enforcement.
Not strictly. Though Russia is a signatory of most international environmental treaties, and throughout the nineties set up several environmental commissions, its officials have been lax about enforcing restrictions. It’s not that citizens are indifferent to issues on the environment — they’re actually concerned about the water and air quality in Russia. Yet, some stand to profit from ignoring environmental restrictions. To understand why it’s difficult to enforce environmental laws in Russia, you need to understand the culture. Contrary to the traditional American view of Russian law as oppressive, Russians aren’t sticklers about the law. Unless you commit a major crime, it’s not considered a big deal to ignore laws. (If you ask how I know this, it’s because I’m from Russia and several of my relatives still live there.) Russian tradition and efforts to industrialize also don’t emphasize much care for the environment. Thus, the structure of the Russian court systems and Russian cultural traditions tend to make law enforcement much more lenient.
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