KOFI A. ANNAN
The theme for this year's World Environment Day, 'For Life on Earth: Save Our Seas', is an appeal to each and every one of us to protect and focus our attention on one of our planet's most valuable resources: the oceans.
Oceans comprise more than 70 per cent of the Earth's surface. Nearly two-thirds of humanity - some 3.5 billion people - inhabit coastal areas and depend on coastal and marine environments for their livelihood. Twenty years from now, this population is expected to have reached 7 billion.
For far too long, we have regarded the oceans' resources as inexhaustible. We have viewed the oceans as a bottomless receptacle for unlimited waste. With changing land-use patterns due to the pressures of an ever-increasing population, with the development of industries, with the massive use of agro-chemicals, the oceans have reached the limits of their capacity to assimilate the waste generated by human activities.
Our self-centred approach has damaged human health, ecosystems and economic productivity. Any approach to meaningful and effective protection of the marine environment must factor in the full complexity of modern life - from politics to technology, from science to the law.
On this day - whether we live near the ocean or not - let us demonstrate our commitment to protecting the environment. Let us prevent any further damage to our one and only Earth. Let us make this mission a priority in our daily lives. Let us recognize that our lives depend upon it.
KOFI A. ANNAN
Secretary-General of the United Nations
The international celebrations for World Environment Day (WED-98) will take place in Moscow on 5 June, 1998. Their aim is to draw the attention of the public, in Russia and in the world as a whole, to the problems of protecting and preserving our common property - the natural environment of the world's continents and oceans.
Active development of the natural resource potential of our planet will ensure that its population can live in dignity and enjoy prosperity in the future. Unfortunately the utilization of natural resources goes hand-in-hand with a host of negative effects - degradation of soil and forests, pollution of water and air, and a reduction in biodiversity.
The principles of the transition of the world community to sustainable development are predicated on success in overcoming these unfavourable tendencies and forging more harmonious interrelations between man and nature: the universal introduction of environmentally friendly, non-waste technologies; the careful expenditure of non-renewable resources and the preservation of renewable natural resources; and the minimization of harmful emissions and discharges.
It is to these noble aims that WED-98 is devoted. Its motto, 'For Life on Earth: Save our Seas', promotes the pooling of efforts of individuals, of governments and of the international community to attain tangible results in improving the state of the environment and natural resources.
In this issue of Our Planet, devoted to the problems of the oceans, it is appropriate to note that Russia is the world's largest sea power. As it embarks on large-scale programmes to develop the resources of the continental shelf and the seabed, our country will seek in every way possible, guided by the principles declared above, to reduce negative impacts on the environment through the use of state-of-the-art technology and the application of the latest practices used in the world.
I wish Our Planet readers a blue sky, clean water and a healthy environment, the conservation of which is our common aim and responsibility to future generations.
The ecological problems of megacities are in many ways similar, but the situation in Moscow is more complicated when we take objective factors into account.
Firstly, the Moscow megacity is the coldest on Earth, with an average temperature of around 5.5oC. As a consequence one and a half times more heat is required to create comfortable conditions than in Berlin and three times more than in Tokyo.
Secondly, this is the most densely populated city on the globe, an unlikely phenomenon given the vast expanse of Russia. Nevertheless, around 8,400 people live on 1 square kilometre in Moscow, compared with 5,400 in Tokyo and 3,900 in London.
The capacity of ecosystems to renew themselves is substantially lower than in cities with warmer climates. Plants, microbiological systems in reservoirs and the soil are active for no more than five or six months a year. Taking all these factors into account, the administration of the city of Moscow has made solving ecological problems a priority.
The Government has adopted a package of special ecological programmes which are now being implemented. These include: fitting cars with catalytic converters; using alternative transport running on cleaner types of fuel; conservation and restoration of parks and wooded areas; building incinerators and recycling plants; developing new technologies to clean waste gases and industrial sewage; preventing the unfavourable influence of power generation on the environment; and developing an environmental education programme.
An ecological civil police force has been established and a regional nature-protection arm of the office of the public prosecutor is being set up to strengthen controls on the implementation of nature protection measures and the struggle against ecological offences in Moscow.
To reduce traffic pollution, Moscow's main atmospheric polluter, action has been taken to improve the quality of fuel used by motor transport and to regulate the movement of through traffic. Additionally, new roads and avenues including the third city ring road are being built, and steps are being taken to convert municipal transport to cleaner kinds of energy such as natural gas and electric power.
The city's water comes from the Volga and Moskva rivers, for which a series of canals and reservoirs were built. The quality of drinking water in the city conforms to current requirements.
Some 14.4 per cent of the city is planted with trees and gardens. This is made up of 36 woods, 125 nature areas and 66 formal gardens and parks. In all there are 18 square metres of planted area per inhabitant in Moscow, compared with 13 in Berlin, 10 in Paris and 5 in Tokyo.
When UNEP made the decision to hold the international celebrations of World Environment Day 1998 (WED-98) in the city of Moscow on a competitive basis, the capital of the Russian Federation received the news with pleasure and preparations for WED-98 were made under the slogan 'The responsibility of the authorities for the survival of humanity'.
Viewing WED-98 as part of nature protection in the whole of Russia, activities in Moscow cover a broad range - from planting trees in courtyards and along roads, to holding school and student activities, international congresses and exhibitions. Of these it is appropriate to note the international congress, People in a Large City in the 21st Century; the international exhibition of modern technology for protecting nature and conserving resources, People, City and the Environment; and the international exhibition, Water: Technology and Ecology (ECWATECH-98).
City-specific activities include the mass transplanting of lilac; the children's festival, Spring in Moscow; an exhibition of electric vehicles; and popular ecological activities in the prefectures, including initiatives for children and schoolchildren to take care of natural springs and to plant trees in Moscow's courtyards.
Progress in preparing for the celebration of WED-98 has been regularly reported in the media, and as the festivities approached the volume of information has increased. From 30 May all television news, social-economic and information programmes have been featuring the environment as their main theme, with this unusual telemarathon ending on 5 June.
We are convinced that WED-98 will contribute to awareness that the condition of the environment depends on every individual as well as on the global community, and that partnerships and mutual aid will allow all nations and peoples to enjoy a more secure and prosperous future. Special attention must be devoted to the ecological problems of large cities, the solution of which is becoming a priority for many countries.
L. A. BOCHIN
Minister of the Moscow City Government for Nature Management and the Protection of the Environment