Thursday, August 24, 2023

Industrial and Human Wastes from the Volga and Daghestan Threatening Survival of Caspian, Experts Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Aug. 21 – Moscow is celebrating the fact that Russia has become the third Caspian littoral state to ratify a 2004 protocol about protecting animal and plant life in the Caspian Sea, even though two of the five other states – Iran and Turkmenistan – have not and the convention will not go into force until they do.

            But the fact that Russia has now ratified the convention has called attention to five major problems that Russian experts say now threaten the biological survival of the Caspian and even human life along its periphery (

            These include the following:

·       First, the Volga, which is the major source of water for the Caspian, continues to carry massive amounts of industrial waste into the sea, killing both plant and animal life there and making the northern part of the sea increasingly a dead zone.

·       Second, not a single city or town in Daghestan treats its sewage before dumping it into the Caspian. As a result, the Caspian is increasingly being contaminated by these flows as well.

·       Third, not only have two littoral states failed to ratify the convention, but four other countries whose waters flow into the Caspian after crossing the territories of other states – Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Uzbekistan – are not even part of the convention and won’t be governed by its provisions even if all five of the littoral states finally ratify the accord.

·       Fourth, little of the data collected over the last century about the Caspian has been digitalized; and as a result, experts and policy makers don’t have access to the information they need to address this key problem of the inland sea.

·       And fifth, the convention’s provisions do not solve the fact that following the demise of the USSR, there is still relatively little coordinate among Russia and the other former Soviet republics let alone countries that were independent of Moscow even before 1991.


As a result, Magomed-Rasul Magomedov of Daghestan’s Federal Research Center says that the Caspian increasingly resembles “a bucket into which wastes are being poured.” It is the largest enclosed body of water on earth. Indeed, he continues, “it can actually be classified as a huge drainless lake.”


If that problem is not recognized and then addressed, the expert says, “the negative consequences” for the Caspian and those who live along its coasts “will only grow.”

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