|Russian Politicians Use Water
Resources to Assert Influence
MOSCOW, Russia (OOSKAnews)
In the aftermath of the heated political debates between Rus-
sia and the West over the conflict in South Ossetia, leader of
Russian Communist Party Gennady Zyuganov made a state-
ment on August 27 that “it is impossible to isolate Russia since our
country has half of the planet’s water reserves, while 25 percent of
the population of the world experiences water shortages,” Rosbalt
quoted him as saying.
Earlier, Zyuganov called for establishing union between Belarus,
Ukraine and Russia as jointly the three countries will be able to
more efficiently exploit their water and other natural resources
and compete in the world market, Za Donbass website quoted the
politician as saying.
In February 2008, Speaker of the Russian State Duma Boris
Gryzlov announced even a more ambitious project – to make water
an export commodity for Russia, which would be the third most
profitable source of export revenues after oil and gas sales.
Gryzlov said that five to seven years later Russia would have water
pipelines that would allow sale of bulk water abroad, RIA reported.
“We can start selling water today already! Some people are ready
to pay 4 dollars for a little bottle of water from Baikal Lake,” says
Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma, LDPR
party website reported.
“Baikal is a real well of the planet, storing up to 70 percent of
clean drinking water of the Earth,” says Aleksandr Suturin, head
of biochemistry laboratory of Limnologic Institute of the Siberian
Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
The specialists of the institute said that the value of the lake’s wa-
ter will be growing, Expert Magazine reported.
Another scientist, Evgeny Kislov, from the Geological Institute of
the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, wrote
that water from Baikal can be sold through a water pipeline in
China and transported by tankers for sale in Japan, South-Eastern
Asia and the Middle East.
Kislov says that the previous projects of selling bottled water from
Baikal abroad have not succeeded, for two reasons: transportation
of bottled water is too expensive, and it is uncommon to bottle
water taken directly from rivers and lakes.
In maintaining the quality of water in Baikal, Russia depends on
Mongolia which has the biggest part of the Selenge River, the
major Baikal tributary accumulating up to 70 percent of the lake’s
According to the information of the Mongolian governmental
agency on water affairs, today 104 coal, gold and copper mining
companies operate in the Selenga Basin in Mongolia.
In 2006, the Mongolian and Russian state water agencies signed an
agreement to control the water quality and prevent pollution of the
Russia also became dependent on the water policy of Kazakhstan,
according to Expert Magazine.
Several big rivers, such as the Ural, the Irtysh and the Tobol flow
from this Central Asian country into Russia, and Kazakhstan uses
this fact to impose its water policy on Russia, said the adviser to
the Minister of Natural Resources Nikolai Mikheev in an inter-
According to Mikheev, Kazakhstan sold all hydropower stations in
the Irtysh to U.S. companies, and they produce power and energy
when it is better for them, discharging water in the Irtysh River in
winter and not doing it in spring.
“If Kazakhstan ‘takes away’ the Irtysh completely, this will be
extremely bad for us. A big part of the Russian territory heavily
depends on Kazakhstan water policy: the Kurgan, Omsk, Chely-
abinsk regions,” said Mikheev.
He also states that China is able to damage Russia’s water resourc-
es by taking too much water from the Amur River. (Rivers consti-
tute 3,500 kilometers of the border between Russia and China).
Meanwhile, the Russian leadership has started promoting the
project of diverting several West Siberian rivers into the states of
This project was initiated by the authorities of the former Soviet
Union in the 1960s, but it was finally abandoned in 1986 as the
government concluded that the projected 2,320-kilometer-long
canal would change the ice of the Arctic Ocean, deteriorate the
quality of water in the Ob River and flood big areas of forests and
agricultural lands, says Kirill Astapov, consultant of Russian Par-
liament Upper Chamber, Federation Council.
According to Astapov, since 2004 Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov
has been promoting this project, after stating in his article in Kom-
somolskaya Pravda newspaper that only Russia is able to provide
the Central Asian states with as much water as they need for devel-
oping their economies.
Luzhkov believes that the project will prevent humanitarian catas-
trophe in Central Asia, and is confident that there is not much harm
in diverting the Ob for irrigation purposes instead of letting the
river discharge its waters into the Arctic Ocean.