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IRIS — Result In Brief

Project ID: 15110
Funded under: FP6-INCO
Country: Germany

Irkutsk faces up to its pollution

A regional information system in the Irkutsk region has helped to highlight its pollution problems and environmental challenges. The initiative aimed to addressing pertinent issues and set an example for other regions.
Irkutsk faces up to its pollution
The Irkutsk Oblast region in Siberia, Russia, is a nature wonderland and home to the famed Lake Baikal and rich flora including parts of the boreal forest. The region's capital, Irkutsk, along with neighbouring rural areas, suffers however from one of the highest levels of air pollution in the world. This is due to all the industry in the area such as energy, chemical and petrochemical plants, truck transport and metallurgy. Stagnant anti-cyclone winters also exacerbate the problem.

The EU-funded project 'Irkutsk Regional Information System for Environmental Protection' (IRIS) investigated the causes of pollution and risks to the forest environment. It found that the well-being of the region's economy is tied to polluting industries, which makes it hard to combat the problem. Inefficient deforestation also contributed to environmental degradation, pointing to a need for sustainable forest management.

The project aimed to support development of regions and examine how the economy and environment can be more optimally tied together. The risks to the forests from human impact were assessed, while pollution from industrial, agricultural and even tourism-related sources was identified.

The IRIS project built an information system that includes impact maps in digital format, risk assessment, satellite-based Earth Observation (EO) information and an extensive EO database. The project's goal of creating a powerful tool for risk assessment and environmental protection to foster sustainable management of land resources was successful. This will allow regional and governmental policymakers to improve pollution and protect natural resources.

The information system may also be a prototype for similar systems in other regions of the Russian Federation. In addition, the comprehensive satellite data collected will undoubtedly be useful for researchers studying vegetation, land use, climate change, human impact and more.

The ultimate result will hopefully be a more balanced picture between the industrial/economic needs of the region and the welfare of the environment. If IRIS also leads to a plan for sustainable development of the region's forests, then all the project's objectives will have been met.

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