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The reversal of Siberian Rivers to Middle Asia and the benefits for the Russian economy

The Northern river reversal or Siberian river reversal is a grandiose project to divert the flow of the Northern Russian rivers, which "uselessly" drain into the Arctic Ocean, southwards, towards the populated agricultural areas of Central Asia, which lack water.

This project has a great historical background. It has been investigated in 1871 by the alumni of Kiev University Ya.G. Demchenko. Later on it was offered to Stalin but it was declined but afterwards in 50s it was developed by science institutions and up to 80s was widely debated when on the wave of perstroika was closed.

In early 21st century talks about river reversal were renewed by the leaders of both Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. These proposals met an enthusiastic response from one of Russia's most influential politicians, Moscow mayor Luzhkov who has recently presented his book “Water and Peace” concerning this problem.

As the project is quite unordinary and has its own pros and cons and supporters and opponents, therefore there are examples of reversal of flows of rivers in world practice as Chicago River, for instance, which originally flowed into Lake Michigan and the reversal of the flow of Chinese river Yangtze, which flows downhill to reservoirs near Tianjin.

Implementation of such kind of project has to be supported by strong arguments. So we would like to list the main points of the project.

As for the pros we should consider such arguments:

1. Draughty regions and agricultural industry of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and the number of Russian regions (Omskaya, Chelyabinskaya, Kurganskaya) will get the water, what will positively effect its economic development.

According to Juriy Luzhkov the project will involve only in agricultural flow about 1.5 million hectare of fertile land, create thousands of workplaces; launch hundreds of industrial enterprises and scientific institutions. The project will create prerequisites for solving many ecological problems of Aral Sea.

2. The world market of pure water is rapidly developing, prices on water are constantly increasing, and consequently the developing of project of reversal of water to the Central Asia may bring a high profit to Russia.

By the accounts of investigators the approximate costs start $40 billion and the profitability exceeds 16% annually.

3. In the past, the only reasoning for the project was economical and agricultural development, but nowadays it has a great geopolitical background. In case of successful implementation of the project Russia will increase its economical and geopolitical influential potential in the central Asia.

The opportunity of reversal of water recourses to the central Asia has already been valued by International Bank for Reconstruction and development based in Washington DC, which has already invested money in research of opportunity of reversal of water from Indian river Gang to the central Asia.

4. Some scientists say that the changes in climate will increase the water flow of Siberian rivers which will lead to floods.

Or feared that as the flow of warmer fresh water would be reduced, the polar ice may could expand. A British climatologist, Michael Kelly of the University of East Anglia, cautioned of the consequences: changes in polar winds and currents might reduce rainfall in the regions to benefit from the river redirection. In a retrospect, this Arctic cooling fear has proven to be quite horribly misplaced advice as the north of Russia has had a significantly increased rainfall while the rains in the south have decreased without any helpful supply from the proposed supply of 100 billion cubic metres of water per annum as it was proposed.

On the opposite side there are some strong disadvantages for this project implementation. Such like:

1. The high cost of the project. Even now there are no accurate economic figures about the cost of the project. And the question whether the importers of water are able to pay for the water or not is still open.

2. It is impossible to value the environmental damage. Even 6% change of flow of Ob river may cause irrevocable consequences.

According to Aleksey Yablokov, President of the NGO Center for Russian Environmental Policy, 5-7% redirection of the Ob's water could lead to long lasting change of climate in the Arctic and elsewhere in Russia and opposes to these changes to change the environment by Siberian water redirections to the south. Despite the increase in Siberian rain fall, the redirection has become highly politicised and Yaroslav Ishutin, director of the Altai Krai Regional Department of Natural Resources and the Environment claims that the Ob has no water to spare and Siberia's water resources are threatened.

Some scientists also cautioned that if the Arctic Ocean was not replenished by fresh water, it would get saltier and its freezing point would drop, the icecap would begin to melt, possibly developing a global warming trend.

3.The project will need annually as much energy power as Moscow consumes in the same period.

4. In Central Asia there are vast reserves of pure water that are used inefficiently. So there are few compromises to be achieved instead of building the channels.

21 century will be an era of changing the surface of our planet. The humanity is developing so it needs new recourses and prospects and whether we do want it or not the crutual changes will take place.

Even nowadays the shortage of pure water is a great problem for many countries and Russia as the worlds leader of the volume of this replaceable resource should find ways to use it effective and efficient. We should always keep in mind that one day the oil, gas and other resources reserves are limited and water reserves not.

This is a disputable project, and the long-term economical and geopolitical benefits for the Russian economy are very bright. That’s why we are looking forward to taking place in Plekhanov Conference describing this project and prospects of it to the Russian economy.

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