All forgotten now, as the sun shines sweetly over us, the Russian winter brings challenges on a scale that would paralyse just about every major city in the world for weeks. Despite the moans and groans about poor municipal services, the city somehow copes and clears away hundreds of tons of snow A DAY. How?
Armies of temporary workers are hired by the Moscow city government each year to handle the thousands of snow clearing machines and good old shovels. More highly paid members of the local housing administration clamber onto roofs and clear chunks of ice and snow off roofs. Drivers who leave their cars too close to buildings get the roofs of the car destroyed free (like your truly; see photo trying to kick the roof back into shape in truly Russian way). Roads are totally clogged when there is a heavy snowfall, but the concept of snow warnings doesnât really mean an awful lot here, as most drivers still insist on driving to work, even though taking the metro would be much faster, and safer. If you buy a nice vehicle, especially a big one, whatâs the point of having to leave it at home?, the logic goes. Each winter the same mad, circus-like situation develops on Moscow streets, saved only by studded tires, which destroy asphalt even faster than salt.
How on earth is the snow disposed of? Moscow streets are served by an army of trucks and bulldozers which clear the snow, thatâs how. Snow clearing machines â the ones that used to look like escalators tipped into the snow â with mechanical arms which fed snow onto a conveyor belt used to be called âcapitalistiâ in times gone by, because they grabbed the snow supposedly like capitalists grab money. Now, modern looking bulldozers come out at night and load lorries up with the snow. The snow is taken to one of 35 âSnego Splavnyi Punktyâor snow melting stations. Boris, the head of the Snego Splavnyi Punkt, Chrkizovsko No. 1 at Sokolniki explained how his station works: âSnow is tipped into underground water canals where the snow melts, and then it is pumped to one of the 5 sewage works around Moscow. The water is running and is at a constant temperature of 14 degrees centigrade, so that the snow doesnât cool it down too much; which would lead to the canals freezing up. Rubbish such as plastic bottles and glass is separated and filtered before the snow descends down into the water. The underground chambers where the snow falls down to are regularly cleaned to get rid of sand used to clean the roads and other sediments.â The stations work 24 hours a day. Each lorry contains between 15-20 cubic metres of snow, each station processes between 12,000 and 15,000 cubic metres of snow per 24 hours.
Whether the melted snow then flows into the river Moskva doesnât really matter too much to me personally. The fact is that mostly, within a day or two, no matter how much snow falls, most of it IS cleared. And that is no mean achievement, anywhere.