Staunton, January 30 – Global warming means that Russia is being forced to stop using many of the ice roads it has long relied upon to move cargo and people north and south during the long winter months, but it has not yet been able to build bridges and alternative roadways that could substitute for their loss, Igor Panayev says.
The costs of building these are enormous and the regions in the north don’t have the money given the other tasks they face, the director of the Arkhangelsk Road Building Agency says (iarex.ru/articles/79490.html). What he doesn’t say, but what is critical is that without ice roads or an alternative, many construction projects in the North cannot be carried out.
There is simply no way for Moscow to move the equipment and supplies to distant sites in the North either to maintain or expand its exploitation of the natural resources to be found there or build the facilities needed to support the Northern Sea Route and the projection of Russian power into the Arctic possible.
Ships can carry some of the materials needed for facilities right on the coastline in places where harbors are to be found, but in many cases, there are no such harbors and without ice roads or some substitute, the projects will have to be suspended, putting a serious crimp into the Russian government’s much-ballyhooed plans.
If Panayev is not prepared to address those problems in the interview he gave to Regnum commentator Vladimir Stanulevich, he is more than prepared to explain many of the other problems involving road construction in the north. Roads and fools are Russia’s two greatest problems, it is sometimes said, and “roads in the Russian north are a misfortune squared.”
Among the problems Panayev points out are these: a history of building highways that focus only on the oblast centers and not of connecting one oblast with another, the inability to afford building hard surface all-weather roads in large parts of the North, and business privatization which has taken many of the roads that do exist out of public use.
In some parts of the North, including Arkhangelsk, there are only the first links to other regions being built, most roads are unpaved and often impassable much of the year, and large percentages of the roads are for the use of companies who built them rather than for the use of the population as a whole.
The cost of building roads in the North is three or more times what it is in the south, not only because the substrate for the roads must go down far deeper given problems with the melting of the permafrost and the far larger number of rivers large and small which most be built for roads to be useful, Panayev says.
What is needed, the Arkhangelsk official says, is for Moscow to ensure that road projects regional as well as federal are 100 percent funded. At present, the government comes close in the case of federal highways: 87 percent of projects involving them are fully funded. But for regional roads, the figure is only “about 40 percent,” far too little to meet planned goals.