Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Moscow May Finally be About to Confront Problems Drying Up of Russia’s Major Rivers Present

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 13 – Russian environmental activists, experts and regional officials have long been concerned by declining water levels in Russian rivers and reservoirs; but since Soviet times, Moscow officials have sought to downplay a problem that threatens the economy, public health, and even the survival of the state.

(On that combination of dangers and Moscow’s neglect, see the report of Novyye Izvestiya journalist Irina Mishina at newizv.ru/news/2023-06-03/tretya-mirovaya-voyna-budet-za-presnuyu-vodu-uchenye-predskazali-gryaduschuyu-katastrofu-409278 as discussed at windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2023/06/drying-up-of-rivers-threatens-survival.html.)

Now the problems of Russian internal waterways are getting worse and Moscow is taking notice, at least in part because Mishina and others are using national security arguments and suggesting that the central government has no choice if it wants to keep the country in one piece rather than seeing the riverine rivers fighting among themselves.

Russia’s natural resources ministry has drafted a proposal to create a government commission to address the problems of the drying up of the Volga and the Don and to try to come up with formulas for improving efficiency of water use and dividing it up among various users (regulation.gov.ru/Regulation/Npa/PublicView?npaID=144780 and idelreal.org/a/v-rossii-mogut-sozdat-pravitelstvennuyu-komissiyu-po-probleme-obmeleniya-volgi/32774819.html).

The experience of the Central Asian countries in this regard suggests that any such commission has its work cut out for it, but at least this is a sign that some in the Russian government bureaucracy are taking seriously an environmental challenge that the Kremlin in recent decades has ignored or treated as marginal.

At the very least, this decision suggests that the problem with water levels in rivers and reservoirs of the Russian Federation is far more serious than officials have acknowledged up to now.

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