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Grigory Pasko: Yuri Luzhkov’s Water Grab

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Water – the oil and gas of the not-too-distant future

What’s news is this: «The world community is hoping that Russia will soon become a supplier to the countries of Europe not only of energy inputs, but of fresh water as well. About this has already been spoken at a January conference under the patronage of “United Russia”, which will receive its continuation within the framework of the “Clean water” forum, which will take place in Moscow 24-25 November».

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What is not news is this: a long time ago, long before anybody from United Russia got around to it, one smart person had already concerned himself with the problem of shipments of Russian water for export. They call him Yuri Luzhkov.

Roland Emmerich will no doubt be shooting his next apocalyptic film in co-authorship with Luzhkov, who last year wrote the epic saga «Voda i mir» [which translates as “Water and the World”, but sounds almost identical to “Voina i mir”, Russian for “War and Peace”–Trans.], and will call it «2025».


I introduce them, the two masters, two titans of thought, biggerthan life, surrounded by clippings from newspapers with such citations:«By the year 2025 without drinking water will remain nearly two billionpeople», «A global crisis will break out in the years 2025-2030 andcould become the most frightening crisis of development humanity willconfront in all of history», «Fresh water will become more expensivethan oil and will be sold on the world market in volumes comparablewith the sales volumes of «black gold»…

When I heard that the Mayor of Moscow was going to become one of the country’s eminently influential water consultants, I immediately went back to re-read his book «Voda i mir» (do you feel thecloseness to another bigger-than-life person – our very own LeoTolstoy?) And this: in his book, Luzhkov the writer invokes theBible («All the rivers run into the sea…»), quotes Vladimir Lenin («An ideamust seize the masses…») and of course pays homage to Vladimir Putin (cited, unfortunately, is only his crisp retort to the Iraq war: «This is a mistake», and one other citation I will address below).

Now, you probably don’t know that on Earth there are 1366 mln. cub.kilometers of water and that for every earthling there falls 220 mln.cub. m. But the Mayor of Moscow knows. There’s a lot he knows aboutwater. Read his book «Voda i mir» for yourself (Moscow, OAO«Moskovskiye uchebniki», 2008, print run of 10,000 copies) and everythingwill become instantly comprehensible to you too about this complex, wonderful, and (most importantly) valuable substance.

For example, read abouthow in the future they will sell water the way they now sell oil andgas. And that already now this market needs to be staked out. In whatmanner? The only one: reversing the flow of northern rivers intosouthern regions. Reversing the flow, in the opinion of theLuzhkov the builder, is possible in two ways: by dredging an open concrete canal and with the help of a pipeline. (It makes one wonder about the “pipeline mentality” of our country’s leadership).

By the way, it’s comprehensible, actually: among the allies of Luzhkov’sidée fixe he isn’t counting on just anyone, but rather V.V.Putin himself. Ina letter to the then still president (in 2002) he writes “Deeplyesteemed… All this is, of course, known to you, as in your article«Mineral-raw-material resources in the strategy of the development ofthe Russian economy ( and you thought that Putin only loves judo andhip-hop?) these questions are dissected professionally in the highestdegree and in details». In so doing, Yu.M. makes in the letter a tinylittle reference to a tiny little citation from V.V., found by him (Iwould never have found it in my life!) in «Zapiski Gornogo institute[Mining institute Notes–Trans.], Volume 144, 1999».

(I had thought thatin the year 1999 V.V. Putin was engaged exclusively in questions withrespect to the FSB agency, which he then headed. But no: broad is therange of interests of great people).

At the end of the book, Yuri Mikhailovich proposes to the higherorgans of state power to return to the project of reversing part of theflow of northern rivers «on new beginnings, devoid of unhealthypoliticization».

For those who aren’t up to speed: such a project has already beenbroadly discussed in the Soviet masses in the 1970s-80s, but it failed to seize popular appeal and did not inseminate any one of the bosses of the countrywith the desire to start the mega-construction straight away. «It isthought, – writes the leading mega-design-engineer Luzhkov, – that the«United Russia» party too is obligated to get involved in this processas the initiator of global concerns about clean water for our state».

And the party hearkened unto the voice of its member: it isprecisely under its leadership that the «Clean water» conference isgoing to take place in Moscow, and it is precisely it, the party,therefore, that will become the initiator of global water concerns. (Bythe way, it is not understandable why did the CPSU not start to engagein this?)

Who knows, maybe Luzhkov is right, eh? If Putin is so activelylobbying gas pipelines, then why shouldn’t Luzhkov move in thoughts inthe direction of water pipelines? After all, these days evenschoolchildren already know about the impoverishment of reserves of gasand oil.
Well, and a totally seditious thought: what if V.V. Putin has already thought about running water for sale through pipelines?

After all, he must have descended to the bottom of Lake Baikal for a reason?