Russia vows for mass checks and upgrades of its creaking water infrastructure. The country’s government plans to invest $20 billion in water management and infrastructure by 2020 and to open the water sector for private investment, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said during a government meeting in Moscow on Thursday, Reuters reported.
The announcement came just a few days after the disaster at Russia’s largest hydropower plant in which a surge of water burst through Soviet-era turbines, flooding a room with about 100 workers. Officials said Friday that 26 people were killed and 49 were still missing after Monday’s catastrophic event at the Sayano-Shushenskaya plant in Siberia.
“There is a need to conduct serious inspections of all strategic and vitally important objects of infrastructure,” Putin said during the government meeting, adding that technological discipline in Russia is very low. “The recent tragic events at the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric plant showed with clarity how much more we should do to increase reliability of technical constructions on the whole and hydrotechnical ones in particular.”
The tragedy dealt a heavy blow to Russia’s hydropower industry, which has attracted the attention of many global investors in recent years. It also highlighted the legacy of the country’s largely outdated Soviet-era water infrastructure, which results in frequent breakdowns. Russia, which possesses one-third of the planet’s fresh water — second only to Brazil — is also haunted by intense industrial water pollution dating back to Soviet times.
Yet, others have pointed out that the abundance of Russia’s water, only 2 percent of which goes for domestic use, could be a strategic asset for the country. According to Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, the director of Russia’s Institute of Water Problems, water may replace oil and gas as Russia’s main source of revenue in the next 30 to 40 years.
, a Bulgaria native, is a Chicago-based reporter for Circle of Blue. She co-writes The Stream, a daily digest of international water news trends.
Interests: Europe, China, Environmental Policy, International Security.