Russia on Friday announced a “high alert” in a town where noxious fumes have leaked from a landfill site, distributing masks and respirators to residents who have held repeated protests.
The Kremlin said it was closely watching the situation in Volokolamsk, a town of around 20,000 people about 120 kilometres west of Moscow.
Residents have long demanded the closure of a landfill site that has been emitting a noxious sulphurous smell, in a rare case of coordinated grass-roots civil action.
Last week, doctors treated dozens of children who complained of dizziness and nausea because of fumes from the Yadrovo landfill site near the town, which is in the Moscow region.
A spokesman for the regional emergencies ministry said “a state of high alert” had been imposed in the town and that monitoring of the environment “will be stepped up” with the “non-stop” testing of air quality.
Local authorities had also begun distributing medical masks and respirators to those who needed them, he said.
Volokolamsk residents had on Thursday held a rally demanding that the authorities formally declare a state of emergency, which they have not so far done.
Another rally is planned for Sunday.
“We are in constant touch with the regional authorities and the government over this,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“Everyone understands that this is a complicated problem, that it cannot be solved overnight.”
Officials say a new facility will eventually be built which will not emit fumes.
Russia sends almost all its rubbish to landfill and there is no obligation for people to recycle household waste, creating a growing problem despite the country’s vast territory.