World

Oil Spill Underscores Russians’ Environmental Concerns

by Cynthia English

Before disaster, 77% were dissatisfied with preservation efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- A devastating oil spill off Russia earlier this month is drawing further attention to environmental concerns in a region where most residents were already dissatisfied with environmental efforts. A violent storm on Nov. 11 reportedly split an oil tanker in two and sank at least 11 other ships, spilling more than 500,000 gallons of fuel oil into the Kerch Strait between Russia and Ukraine. Experts anticipate the spill will have long-term effects on the local environment and ecological damage is estimated at $267 million.

A Gallup Poll conducted in March found that 77% of Russians were already dissatisfied with efforts to preserve the environment in their country. However, few said they, personally, had taken actions in the past year to help the environment: Just 6% of Russians said they were active in an environmental organization, and about 3 in 10 Russians (29%) said they avoided using certain products that harm the environment.

Environmental groups are blaming poor equipment and low standards for enabling what is now being called an environmental disaster. They hope that more attention and tougher regulations will improve ecological standards in the region and prevent future catastrophes.

Survey Methods

Results are based on interviews conducted in March 2007 with a randomly selected national sample of 2,949 Russian citizens, aged 15 and older, with oversamples in Tatarstan and Dagestan. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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