Saturday, June 27, 2015

Widespread Flooding Leads Russians to Ask ‘What Have Putin and Medvedev Been Doing the Last 15 Years?’

Paul Goble
            Staunton, June 27 – Sochi is not the only city in the Russian Federation hit by widespread flooding, the result of heavy rains and poor infrastructure, and it is not the only place where residents are beginning to politicize these floods, asking in the words of one in the Urals, “Where are Putin and Medvedev? What have these two persons been doing the last 15 years?”

            That comment was the first one appended to an extensively illustrated article on flooding in the cities of the Urals and Siberia which appeared yesterday on the portal. It was pointedly entitled “’Russia is going under water. [Only] an act of political will will save it” (

                “If as a result of heavy rains even ‘golden’ Sochi is going under,” Albina Zolotukhina and Mikhail Bely begin, “then how prepared for this are cities in the Urals?”  What they found is that the situation in the latter may be as dire as in the site of the 2014 Olympiad, but that the problems in both reflect the Russian government’s failure to invest in infrastructure.

            The two then survey the flood disasters in Voronezh, Nizhnevartovsk, Magnitogorsk, Chelyabinsk, and other cities, providing with their pictures irrefutable proof that the heavy rains proved too much for the often antiquated storm sewers, especially since the paving over of so much of the city’s land left the rain water nowhere to go that did not damage people’s lives.

            “Is the weather alone” responsible for what has happened, the two journalists asked. Many Russian officials both from the cities hit by flooding and Moscow either continued to express optimism or refused to address that question when asked as the flood waters rose with more rain predicted.

            Residents of the cities hit by flooding, however, had no doubts that “if the storm sewers had been developed as required, then no problems would have arisen.

            Dmitry Taradov, a coordinator for housing in the region, says that many of these storm sewers were built 20 or 30 or even more years ago and are now completely out of date.  They simply “cannot function for objective reasons under present-day circumstances” where the expansion of cities has destroyed many natural drainage ditches.

            Beyond any doubt, he says, the aging and inadequate infrastructure is “an enormous problem, one that is only getting worse with each passing year,” he says. Even if a massive commitment were made to fix things, something that would take real political will, it would take not five to seven years as some imagine but 20 or more.

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