Sunday, August 15, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Moscow’s New Plan for Siberia Drops Three Major Hydro Dam Projects

Paul Goble

Staunton, August 15 – In what ecologists see as a partial victory, the Siberian Development Plan Moscow has just approved drops plans for three major hydro-electric dam projects, but these activists and other Siberians are angry because the plan offers promises rather than real programs and thus will do little to end the region’s role as a source of raw materials.
The plan, the full text of which is available at, makes no reference to the construction of the Evenk Hydro-Electric Station on the Lower Tunguska, the Altai station on the Katun or the Moks on the Vitim River in Buryatia, although it does call for building the Motygin station on the Angara and the Boguchan station as well.
Environmentalists and ethnic activists are pleased that their calls “were considered even if not completely,” all the more so because the absence of any reference to the Evenk dam project gives them hope that this dam will never be built and that the Evenk population will not be displaced from its homeland (
But as the Plotina.Net site noted on Friday, everyone should remember that the Evenk and Moks dam projects “are not buried once and for all” by their absence in Moscow’s plan for regional development over the next decade. RusHydro, which is the main force behind such projects, says that their completion will simply be put off until after that time.
Rasim Khaziakhmetov, a senior official with that concern, said that Moscow will revisit the situation after the current economic crisis passes, and “with an improvement of the economic situation, the idea of large new projects, it is clear, will again become a serious one,” something that is likely to keep environmental and ethnic groups on guard.
But if the ecologists won a partial victory in the newly approved “Strategy of
Social-Economic Development of Siberia up to 2020,” Siberian analyst and activist Dmitry Verkhoturov argues, Siberians as a whole received little but empty promises from Moscow (
Although some east of the Urals may be pleased that the central powers that be are “devoting more attention” to their region, he suggests, they cannot be happy either by the fact that the document neither provides any specific numbers for the investments Moscow says it will make or suggests that the center will promote the balanced development of the region.
Instead, he argues, Moscow clearly intends to continue to treat Siberia as a source of raw materials in much the same way that colonial powers treat their colonies, a fundamental reality not hidden by the new document’s suggestion that the powers that be plan to raise incomes in Siberia up to all-Russian levels.
“Finally” recognizing that this approach threatens Russia’s security “and could lead to the splitting apart of the country,” Verkhoturov says, “the government has decided to make promises” of various kinds. But he suggests that while such promises would have been “warmly welcomed” five years ago, Siberians today have “lost faith” in such promises.
A close examination of the document “shows clearly and precisely that in essence there will not be any reconstruction [of the Siberian economy] and there will not appear new centers and principally new branches.” Instead, Moscow will continue to rely on the infrastructure and institutions created in Soviet times.
This is “confirmed,” he continues, by “the list of the first-order projects attached to the Strategy [document]. Of the 27 listed, only three involve high technologies and [only] one construction of new housing. The rest are about raw materials, ports, roads, and energy. There is not one project involving machine construction in this list.”
And consequently, “nothing stands behind the rhetoric” of the strategy – “no concrete projects, no new ideas, and no planned government investments.” Indeed, “there is not a single reference to those in the document.” That, Verkhoturov concludes, means that the strategy “will not give Siberia or Siberians anything.”
Until “the promises are backed up by concretely developed plans and concrete actions,” he suggest, “nothing can change,” a pattern that will only make Siberians more cynical about the intentions of distant Moscow and mean they will increasingly view their interests as increasingly at odds with those of the Russian powers that be.

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