President Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, dear colleagues.
Today we are to discuss a very important issue – the state and prospects of development of the country’s water complex.
For any country, the issue of water resources is an issue of strategic importance, without any exaggeration. The state of water resources in many ways determines the quality of people’s lives. It directly affects both the economy of the country, and the level of its security.
Russia has enormous water resources. Russia has the second largest amount of water supplies in the world, and there are around 6 million rivers and lakes on its territory. Our country is one of the world leaders in supplies of such a deficit product as freshwater; water, which is now acknowledged to be the world’s main commodity of the 21st century. It is clear that effective use of water resources is a problem of national importance, and it cannot be solved at the level of departments or within one region alone.
An analysis of the state of the water complex shows that unfortunately, and this must be said, we take poor care of water supplies and make incompetent use of them. It must be admitted that in the past the situation was much better. But now, after reforms to the economy, many things which used to work in a kind of natural regime, which may not have been particularly efficient, but at least functioned, are simply being lost.
There is no modern system to clean municipal, industrial and agricultural sewage. Furthermore, 30% of existing water supply systems do not have any treating facilities at all, and as a result, a third of the country’s citizens, particularly those in rural areas, use poor-quality water.
The infrastructure of water transport and hydropower is in many ways outdated. The deterioration of hydraulic facilities is also known. In some regions it has reached a critical state. And we have already seen on several occasions the dramatic consequences of this state of affairs.
There are 65,000 hydraulic facilities in Russia. All this means that the water resources complex of Russia requires serious modernization. I will only outline several problems in generalized form.
First, it is necessary to develop modern approaches to the development of the entire water resources complex. I do not only mean technical issues – we must determine a clear state policy in this sphere. We must think over the economic, organizational and legal issues.
Second, it is necessary to seriously analyse the actual system of state administration in the water resources sphere.
I suggest that the processes currently underway to restrict authority and responsibility should fully affect water resources as well. It is important to remember that water is our common national property, and the principle of its accessibility to everyone is an absolute basic priority.
The third aspect is the development of water conserving and ecologically pure technology. Of course, mere calls to “protect nature” are not enough here. Factories must have an according economic stimulus.
We must also pay attention to regulating processes of developing areas with a high flood risk. There is a currently a great deal of confusion in land development. In general, in a whole series of regions this development is uncontrolled, and eventually causes disasters.
It is important to also think over a system of insuring civil responsibility for damage done to water and ecology.
I would also like to emphasise the important of legal regulation of systems of trans-border water objects.
And finally, separate attention should be devoted to problems of water transport. For many regions, this remains the only and sufficiently inexpensive method of delivering cargo.
As the amount of cargo increases, the fish supply quickly drops. And this once more illustrates the extent to which everything in nature is interconnected, and that if we interfere in it we must think of the consequences.
In conclusion, I would like to direct your attention to the following situation. We are all big bosses here, and we always brush aside people who point out the errors and insufficiencies in our work as if they were pesky flies. These include people who deal with ecological problems. I mean above all public organizations which expose ecological problems and propose methods to solve these problems. This is one of the spheres where sensible proposals should not be brushed aside, and however unpleasant this may be – it is always unpleasant when people stick their noses into our own mistakes – we need to rise above our own departmental and personal ambitions, and make use of everything useful that is proposed in this sphere. Under no circumstances should we ignore this.
It is clear that any idea can be taken to absurd lengths. It is clear that we are always caught between Scylla and Charybdis. We must always think about the development of the economy, the development of production, about providing people with jobs, replenishing the budget, and solving social problems – this is all understandable. But if we act carelessly when we do this, with poor effectiveness, in the old fashion, then in the end, the damage caused by our activity will be much greater than the results of our work.