Staunton, October 10 – Russia has known various revolts connected to water in the past; and the contamination of the waters off Kamchatka is a reminder of how critical access to clean water is and an indication that if such pollution affects water people rely on, Russia could face new risings about this issue, Emiliya Slabunova says.
In various parts of the country, the Yabloko deputy in the Karelian legislative assembly says, the situation is already critical with the classical question “is the glass half full or half empty?” being replaced by an expression of regret that it is “dirty” and a threat to health (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/10/11/87458-stakan-napolovinu-gryazen).
People are protesting over the lack of adequate water. In June, people in the Altay Kray blocked a highway to call attention to the absence of potable water; and in July, people in Chelyabinsk threatened to boycott local elections because they lacked clean water in which to give their children baths.
When people became ill from drinking polluted water in Tambov, residents there protests. The response of the authorities? Not to address the source of the problem but simply to increase the level of chlorine in the water, a palliative rather than a real solution.
The in August, contaminated water led villagers in Daghestan to protest, the latest in a long line of demonstrations in that North Caucasus republic over poor water quality. In many federal subjects, people get water from untested sources and often fall ill. In Sakha, the Transbaikal and Tyva, the share who do have access to tested water is especially low.
Rosstat reports, Slabunova continues, 21 million people as recently as 2019 did not have access to tested water. Many are likely getting sick but may not even know the source of their illness. The Russian government has pledged to overcome this problem, but progress over the last decade has been pitifully slow.
The situation today in many places can only be “characterized as one of crisis,” she says. Contaminated water is being taken directly from rivers or reservoirs or contaminated in aging pipelines. Correcting these infrastructure problems will take enormous investments and much time, but for the Kremlin, this isn’t a priority and Russians know it, Slabunova says.
And unlike other problems which only some regions face, the problem of clean water is one that Russians almost everywhere face. Consequently, the protests which have begun in earnest this summer are likely to spread and grow. They may even link up, creating a challenge for the Kremlin that is does not appear to take seriously.