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Russian Federation: Toxic Spill DREF Operation No. 05ME071 Final Report

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The International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) is a source of un-earmarked money created by the Federation in 1985 to ensure that immediate financial support is available for Red Cross Red Crescent response to emergencies. The DREF is a vital part of the International Federation's disaster response system and increases the ability of national societies to respond to disasters.

Summary: CHF 36,000 (USD 27,425 or EUR 23,055) was allocated from the International Federation's Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) on 20 December 2005 to support the National Society in delivering assistance to some 4,560 beneficiaries during a month and a half. This operation supported the Russian Red Cross to provide immediate relief to the affected population in the far-eastern part of the country where the main source of water, the river Amur, was polluted as a result of a massive release of chemicals in China on 13 November 2005. Almost 3,000 people received drinking water to survive the period when the toxic spill in the river passed through the populated areas. The distribution of drinking water was carried out over a month and a half, however, the operation was prolonged due to the threat of possible secondary pollution caused by ice-melting. The activities were completed by 28 June 2006.

The situation

On 13 November 2005 an explosion at the petrochemical plant of Jilin Petrolium in Jilin, China released approximately 100 tons of benzene, nitrobenzene and other potentially cancer-causing chemicals into the river Songhua. This river merges with the river Amur in Russia, known as Heilongjiang river in China,forming a long stretch of the border between Russia and China. The watershed of the river Amur is 1,853 thousand cubic km, the total length of the river is 4,444 km. Water from the river Amur constitutes 95 per cent of the overall water consumption for one million people living in the Jewish Autonomous Region and Khabarovsk Krai in Russia's Far East. As many as 70 Russian towns, the biggest being Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk-na-Amure, and villages were affected by the pollution. On 25 December 2005, the toxic spill reached Khabarovsk and was flowing through the city of Khabarovsk for five days, and then passed through Komsomolsk-na-Amure between 12 and 16 January 2006. The total length of the toxic spill was 180 km. State and local authorities took measures to minimize the possible consequences by damming a channel, and by testing, safeguarding and filtering the water. As a result of these measures the pollution level of chemical substances such as benzene, nitrobenzene, chlorophenol and toluol in the river Amur in Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk-na-Amure did not exceed the maximum permissible concentration as had been expected and water supplies to Khabarovsk were maintained.

Red Cross and Red Crescent action

During the days of the toxic spill passing through Khabarovsk, the Khabarovsk regional branch of the Russian Red Cross distributed drinking water to the vulnerable population. Around 3,000 vulnerable people of Khabarovsk were supplied with 45,000 litres of drinking water. The beneficiaries were elderly people living alone, disabled people living alone, homeless children, lowincome multi-children families, low-income one-parent families and tuberculosis (TB) patients under the patronage of the Khabarovsk regional Red Cross branch.

Progress towards objectives

Water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion

Objective: To mitigate the impact of water pollution of the river Amur on the most vulnerable communities in the cities of Khabarovsk and Komsomolsk-na-Amure.

Activities planned: It had been planned to supply drinking water to six categories of the most vulnerable people (4,460 beneficiaries/2,663 families in Khabarovsk and 100 beneficiaries/40 families in the city of Komsomolsk-na-Amure). However, this objective was significantly reduced in terms of the number of beneficiaries as most of the population in the settlements affected did not in fact need additional drinking water, following good prevention measures for purifying the drinking water conducted by the local authorities.

The Khabarovsk krai branch of the Russian Red Cross therefore distributed 45,000 litres of drinking water (9,000 of 5-litre bottles) to 3,000 beneficiaries. The distribution was calculated according to the Sphere standards and amounted to 15 litres per person- 3 litres per person per day for 5 days. The water was to be used for drinking only.

How we work

All International Federation assistance seeks to adhere to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO's) in Disaster Relief and is committed to the Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response (Sphere) in delivering assistance to the most vulnerable.

The International Federation's activities are aligned with its Global Agenda, which sets out four broad goals to meet the Federation's mission to "improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity".

Global Agenda Goals:

- Reduce the numbers of deaths, injuries and impact from disasters.

- Reduce the number of deaths, illnesses and impact from diseases and public health emergencies.

- Increase local community, civil society and Red Cross Red Crescent capacity to address the most urgent situations of vulnerability.

- Reduce intolerance, discrimination and social exclusion and promote respect for diversity and human dignity.

For further information specifically related to this operation please contact:

In Russia: Raisa Lukutsova, Russian Red Cross, Chair person; phone: +7 495 126 7571; email: mail@redcross.ru

In Moscow Regional Representation: Tore Svenning, Regional Representative; phone: +7 495 126 15 66; email: Tore.Svenning@ifrc.org

In Europe Zone Office: Slobodanka Curic, Disaster Management Coordinator, Budapest, phone: +36 1 248 33 00; fax: +36 1 248 33 22; email: slobodanka.curic@ifrc.org

In Geneva: Linda A. Stops, Operations Coordinator, phone: +41 22 730 4300, fax: +41 22 733 0395; email: linda.stops@ifrc.org