"Fires Cost Russia '300 Billion Dollars' in Deforestation"

"MOSCOW -- Wildfires have cost Russia 300 billion dollars in forest loss, environmentalists said on Thursday, explaining the scale of the disaster by Vladimir Putin's 'absurd' changes to forestry law.

The economic damage amounts to 25,000 dollars per hectare (2.4 acres), or at least 300 billion dollars, according to estimates based on the market value of timber and the cost of reforestation, said Alexei Zimenko, general director of the Biodiversity Conservation Centre.

'The figures are completely astronomical,' Zimenko told a news conference, adding that they did not include several factors, such as the loss of wildlife like insects and rare birds and animals. ...

Environmentalists say the authorities have purposely under-reported the scale of the disaster."

Anna Smolchenko reports for AFP August 26, 2010.

Source: AFP, 08/27/2010