Monday, November 2, 2020

Russia’s Small Rivers Dying Leaving Ever More Russians without Safe Water, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 1 – Seventy percent of Russia’s lakes and rivers, (90 percent of which are small ones), are currently at risk as a result of human activity. In Soviet times, officials tried to reverse this; but between 1991 and 2014, Moscow did nothing; and now the situation in many places is critical, threatening the economy and the lives of many Russians.

            In fact, according to Mariya Sotskova, a journalist for Moscow’s Ogonyok, many regions are dying because their rivers, lakes and reservoirs have been both neglected and poisoned by the dumping into them of human and industrial wastes, only one Russian in three has safe drinking water (

            The problem before Russia is enormous. On the one hand, there are some 12.5 million kilometers of rivers and lakes and reservoirs cover 400,000 square kilometers. And on the other, the government has been extremely ineffective in addressing it, imposing fines too small to influence anyone and ignoring actions by individuals and companies.

            Many Russians are concerned. Last year, nearly a million took part in volunteer efforts to clean up the shorelines of some rivers. (This year, the number is much smaller because of the coronavirus.) And in the absence of help from regional and federal officials, they have taken steps that only highlight the absurdity of the Russian situation.

            Recently, the journalist reports, a group of Russians wrote to Putin asking him to intervene to get one local farmer to stop dumping manure in a local lake. He said what he was doing was “organic” and no regional officials were prepared to counter his moves. But the system can’t work if all such things have to rise to Putin’s attention for anything to happen.

            One can only welcome the fact that Russians care and that Moscow is again focusing on the problem, Sotskaya says. But it will take decades to make up for the damage that has been inflicted so far; and there is, unfortunately, little evidence that such an effort has sufficient priority to sustain it for that long.

            As a result, ever more of Russia’s smaller rivers – and even some of the larger ones into which they feed – are likely to die and, with their death, so too, the villages, towns and even major cities along their banks.

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