Staunton, Sept. 26 – A decision by the Russian authorities to postpone the construction of a deep-water port in the Nenets Autonomous District because of global warming is a reminder that for Russia as for other countries climate change is a two-edged sword, opening some paths for new development but foreclosing others.
For more than a decade, Moscow has planned to build a major port in Indiga on the Arctic Ocean and connect it by new railroads extending to Arkhangelsk to the West and Sytyvkar in the south. Construction of the port was slated to begin in 2023 but now has been pushed off to third and fourth quarters of 2024 (tass.ru/ekonomika/12325801).
Potentially, the new court could handle even more traffic than Arkhangelsk and thus promote the use of the Northern Sea Route and the development of the Russian North in important ways. But climate change means that building it is going to be far more difficult than the Russian government had anticipated.
The reason for this delay – and further delays are not only possible but likely – has less to do with the port itself than with the rail lines connecting it with mines and oil fields inside the Russian Federation. Ships can move more easily to the port because of decreased ice coverage, but the melting of the permafrost means that building rail lines is more difficult.
And without the rail lines, the port would be much less valuable to the Russian economy. Consequently, it appears the authorities at the center have decided to slow down until they can figure out how to lay track more reliably over the rapidly subsiding ground in the former permafrost zone.
For background on these problems, see thebarentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2021/09/indiga-seaport-construction-postponed-due-changing-climate-conditions