Thursday, August 4, 2022

Russian River Highways East of the Urals Silting Up, Becoming Impassable

Paul Goble

          Staunton, July 12 – More than any other major country, Russia relies on its rivers to move cargo and people from place to place. But global warming combined with increased drawing off of water for industry and people along their banks is rapidly leading to falling water levels and rising siltification and restricting the transit of ships and barges.

          The latest major river to be hit in this way is the Yenisey where in the most populated and industrially active regions of its southern course the volume of water flow has declined to half or even less of the normal amount. Officials there blame climate change for what they say is a once in every 75 years disaster (

          But local politicians and experts say that other factors are involved, including the clear cutting of forests on land adjoining the river and its tributaries. Treeless areas hold snow less well than those which are forested and as a result there is less water flowing into streams and rivers, some deputies say.

          That is an especially sensitive issue along the Yenisei given that Moscow, both official and oligarchical, has been allowing China to overharvest timber in the region, gaining immediate profits for themselves but putting the landscape and population of Russia east of the Urals at increasing risk.

          But there is another cause as well: the Russian government to save money has been cutting back its dredging operations. As water levels fall and siltification increases, ever more rivers are no longer deep enough for shipping (

          That tragedy which has already affected parts of the Volga and other major rivers has now come to the Yenisey.

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