The Soviets turned the Volga River into an instrument. Then the machine breaks down.


People in his boat in Volga

Stoyan Vasev

Since almost all Volga towns and cities এবং and Moscow, through canals নদী use rivers to supply their water, this pollution brings a hefty bill for water treatment. “The worse the Volga water, the more expensive it is to make it drinkable,” Damien notes. Accommodation for 60 million people in the Volga Basin, about half of Russia’s industry and a comparative part of its agriculture, adds to the cost.

A recent analysis compiled by Carbon Brief, a UK-based climate media outlet, ranked the USSR and Russia third in the world in terms of all-time historic greenhouse-gas emissions. A national assessment report compiled by Russian climate scientists in 2014 states that at a time of man-made climate change, the country’s average annual temperature is rising twice as fast as the world average. The report further states that the trend is expected to continue. The effects of climate change due to the development of Soviet industry are already visible around Russia, ranging from degradation of permafrost to desertification in the agrarian-heavy south of the country. The same large-scale industrial development that gave rise to the Big Volga and was driven by river water has also contributed to the global problem of climate change – which now threatens the lives of millions of people living in cities along the Volga.


When I went to the final node of the Cascade, the Cheboksarsko Reservoir, about 370 miles east of Moscow in 2010, I saw an algal bloom that made the water look like a magical drink.

The nearby town of Cheboksary, the capital of Chuvashশি, one of the several ethnic republics of Russia, was underground, quiet and welcoming when I visited. I was part of a press tour organized by RusHydro, the owner of Cascade, who was lobbying the government to raise the water level in the reservoir. Many years later it is still five meters below where RusHydro wants it to be, because the Cheboksarskoe reservoir where, after four glorious decades, the Big Volga project finally stumbled.

In the mid-1980s, with Volume, Mikhail Gorbachev decided that the Soviet Union could do something more with freedom and transparency of the press, allowing citizens to discuss and even criticize the decisions of their government. And so Volga’s irreversible environmental damage has gradually become part of the wider public discourse. A 1989 book about the river called on the people behind the construction of the reservoir that “the life-giving water of the Volga has turned into dead water, we have nothing to do with it.” “Volga, which makes the world proud.Matushka [mother-river] Controlled several times, still calling himself his son, those who controlled him condemned him for a long, terrible and painful illness, ”the book reads.

“Whose land is being destroyed and whose water is being polluted so that someone else can make money?”



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