Aleksandr Lukashenko holds session to discuss measures to minimize consequences of the spring flooding

    Efficient measures should be taken in Belarus to prevent and minimize the damage that can be caused by spring floods, President of the Republic of Belarus Aleksandr Lukashenko said on 12 April at the government session to discuss efforts to minimize the flood damage and prepare for the spring sowing campaign.

    At the beginning of the session the President said that three major issues are on the agenda, namely the spring flooding and its consequences, the sowing campaign, beautification and cleanup of the country.

    “We do not expect a catastrophe, but the freshet is going to be higher than usual. I do not think that the melting snow will cause a disaster, but we should not be complacent, because the snow that has remained is not really snow, but ice that will turn into a big water flow. It is not fluffy snow we usually see in spring, but icy, water-filled snow; therefore we should work hard to anticipate the damage. We need to take efficient measures to minimize the damage that might be caused by the flood if the flood occurs. The loss of human life is totally unacceptable,” the President said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko stated that in recent years Belarus has gained a lot of experience in minimizing the impact of river flooding and snowmelt. “You did well during the recent snowstorm. Yet it is not always that you act in the proper way. Although I often say that there are issues with the way our people act. But, again, the root of evil is in us. We do not know how to organize work with the population,” the head of state said.

    The President stressed that the task is to ensure that all the measures to be taken should give proper effect, and this requires coordinated and efficient work of all relevant services and authorities. "No panic should be allowed," warned Aleksandr Lukashenko. He added that there is a clear-cut system of authorities and bodies to respond to emergency situations, and everyone knows what to do.

    "The government should coordinate the work of all agencies in a way as not to leave people alone in a difficult situation and, if necessary, provide help at any moment," Aleksandr Lukashenko demanded.

    The President believes that first and foremost there is a need to conduct an awareness raising campaign among the population, and not just in the mass media. “Central mass media outlets cover this topic quiet extensively. This work must be carried onsite, in the places where some difficulties may arise.” Aleksandr Lukashenko underlined that it is very important to once again remind people that it is not the emergency services that should pump out water from their yards. This is the business of house owners themselves. In turn, the state will help lonely people, the disabled, and those who cannot do it themselves because of illness or advanced age.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko instructed local authorities, the Emergencies Ministry and other emergencies services to assess the situation and take all necessary preventive measures. In particular, Belcoopsoyuz organizations should secure additional supplies of staple items to the flooded villages. The President added that supplies of essential commodities can be delivered by other organizations as well. Regional hygiene and epidemiology services and utilities services should take care of potable water and wells treatment. Belgosstrakh should take up responsibility for a large-scale explanatory work on voluntary real estate and property insurance for both individuals and corporate clients.

    The President also spoke about the weather service. In his words, weather forecasts have recently become more accurate: “Three-day forecasts are 100% true. It would be better if weather services provided accurate forecasts for a longer period of time. Here, we should rule out formalism, establish an effective monitoring over the situation and respond promptly to emergency situations.”

    Aleksandr Lukashenko asked those present to inform him about the measures that are to be taken to minimize damage from floods.

    As for the spring sowing campaign, this year it will have to be instantaneous because the weather conditions have considerably reduced the time available for the spring field work. “Spring is late, the launch of the sowing campaign is delayed. The abundance of snow has made soils more humid, delaying the launch of the sowing campaign as well. The situation is deteriorated because we will virtually have to combine the cultivation of winter crops with the sowing of spring crops. Therefore, it is necessary to think about faster pace for all the works in order not to miss the optimal time and lay down a good foundation for the new harvest,” Aleksandr Lukashenko stressed.

    According to the head of state, agrarians will have to virtually keep vigil in the fields. “Once a field is ready for sowing, it should be sown right away while waiting for the soil on another field to become ready. Then all the machines must be mobilized for immediate sowing,” the President said.

    Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Anatoly Kalinin reported that despite the rising water level in some rivers, the hydrological situation is under control in Belarus; the major life necessities are still available in waterfront communities. Central and local authorities have properly prepared for the 2013 spring freshet.

    The emphasis is made on targeted and detailed protective measures. Special record cards spelling out the necessary information were distributed among all waterfront settlements.

    According to the Vice Premier, the construction of dams is the most effective method to protect settlements from floods. Since 1999, some 465 kilometers of dams have been built, of them 22 kilometers were built last year. The construction of such facilities will continue this year.

    Cooperation has been established with the relevant authorities in the neighboring counties to keep each other up to date on the flood situation.

    Anatoly Kalinin believes that in the future Belarus should take steps to upgrade the emergencies services in order to enhance their capabilities to respond to extraordinary situations. It is also necessary to improve the capacity of the weather forecast service.

    Emergencies Minister Vladimir Vashchenko reported on the readiness to provide equipment and personnel. However, he noted that sometimes people call the emergencies services for minor issues which can and should be addressed by citizens themselves.

    Governors of Brest Oblast and Gomel Oblast Konstantin Sumar and Vladimir Dvornik stated that they do not expect big problems even in the most flood-prone areas of Polesye this year. The water level is expected to go down soon.

    Deputy Prime Minister of Belarus Mikhail Rusyi informed the President about the preparedness for the spring sowing campaign, including about the availability of mineral fertilizers and plant protectors, seeds and fuel, the current state of machinery and tractors. In his words, Belarus has everything to finish the sowing campaign as soon as possible. “Every day another 5-8 districts will get involved in the work. We hope that the sowing of all kinds of crops will be completed by 10 May,” the Vice Premier said.

    Finance Minister Andrei Kharkovets reported on the financing of the spring sowing campaign. “We have balanced all the sources of financing and the industry’s needs. We have solved the issue of financing used to purchase fertilizers and fuel. There are some issues that are to be addressed by the government and governors,” the official said.

    Aleksandr Lukashenko reminded that the sowing campaign should not be dependent on the effective development of the economy. “There is no wild money to spare and we cannot afford any excesses. We will do what we can. Banks have been instructed to lend money to agriculture the way they lend money to any economy. Money once taken has to be returned. Economy stability is the priority. No sowing campaigns should undermine this stability,” the head of state stressed.

    The President believes that in present conditions agricultural enterprises do not need additional support from the state budget. “It is time to spend money wisely, live and work,” he remarked. “Everything that has been planned and promised should be fulfilled. If there is something missing, we will deal with every case individually”.

    “Everything the state can do has been planned and allocated per area. No relaxed attitude to this matter. I urge everyone to be like that. You know that we will never print money out of thin air. Therefore, find ways,” Aleksandr Lukashenko emphasized .
    “We have invested so much in agriculture, buying machines and putting things in order. We can live for as long as five years without spending money on basic assets for agriculture. But we are not doing it. This year we will buy machines for agriculture and will provide support. But the support should result in hard work. We should invest in promising projects that can pay their way,” the President said.