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Sanitation and waste

The safe disposal of waste presents a challenge in the Arctic since the cold climate prevents normal decomposition. Many communities incinerate waste but this contributes to pollution and has aesthetic impacts.

While larger cities have sewage systems, many smaller communities have yet to provide all their citizens with sewage treatment or septic systems. In 1994, half the rural households in Alaska had only honey buckets' for the disposal of human waste. By 2001, 70 per cent of rural households had clean water and sewage disposal, and the State aims to relegate the honey bucket to the museum by 2005 (Knowles 2001). Poor housing, water quality and sanitation facilities are reported as serious concerns throughout Russia's north and in small communities in Alaska. Many small settlements and parts of larger cities in the Russian Arctic have no indoor plumbing. Funding from federal and regional municipalities is slowly catching up with the need for medical, sanitation, and consumer goods and services in the North.

The interplay of rural and urban populations
Constant contact and exchange occurs between rural and urban populations in the Arctic. While physical boundaries are clear, social and economic boundaries are porous. Hunters and herders come to villages (and in the Russian Arctic are even listed on the census roles of villages) and villagers visit and send their children to the tundra and to fish camp during vacations. This interchange, economic interdependence and constant motion of people is well noted in the Russian and American Arctic as well as in Greenland. The notion that urban groups of indigenous minorities do not lead a traditional life is certainly questionable and, in some cases, wrong (Bogoyavlenskiy 2001).