Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Volga’s Rapidly Approaching Death Will Leave Central Russia without Water, Ecologist Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 20 – The silting up of the Volga River and its tributaries, the result of climate change and the unfettered pursuit of economic growth, is already destroying the water eco-system in central Russia and reducing the ability of ships to use these waterways, Yuliya Fayzrakhmanova says. In 20 to 30 years, these trends will “leave Russia without water.”

            The environmental activist, a member of the initiative group “The Volga and the People are Against,” says the problems the region faces today are only a first warning bell of what is coming and they are bad enough: the demise of numerous species of fish, the destruction of wetlands, and the end of rivers for transport and tourism (

            Some of these trends reflect broad trends like global warming, but many are being made worse by unconscionable extraction of water from the system and the pursuit of economic growth, something the authorities want so much that they do not require those involved to get the environmental impact statements the law requires.

            The silting up of the Volga in particular, the result of overuse, mismanagement of reservoirs, and population growth along its length means that many species of fish are dying out and that no cruise ships or cargo vessels will be able to pass along its length in the near future, Fayzrakhmanova says. 

            This situation has become the gateway to disaster in the last decade because Moscow and regional officials have ignored Russian environmental laws and gone ahead with projects without the assessment the legal system requires, doing far more damage than would otherwise have been the case.

            Some of this damage can be reversed, but only at great cost and over a long period of time. At present, the environmental activist says, there is no leadership or push for taking the steps necessary to prevent a disaster.  And that disaster will hurt not only fish and wildlife but the people who live along or even near the Volga’s course.

            She cites with approval the conclusions of Viktor Danilov-Danilyan who has written that “the water crisis is a completely real threat: the first alarm bells we are already hearing, but 20 to 30 years from now, the situation could become simply catastrophic.” The longer Russia waits, the harder and more expensive it will be to do anything about it.

            Hard-pressed by current economic difficulties, few Russians want to think out two or three decades, Fayzrakhmanov observes; but if they and their governments don’t do so, they or their children will discover that not only will they not have the rivers on which Russia is based but they won’t have the water that is the source of all life. 

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