Almost everyone has heard about the famous project of turning Siberian rivers. But what exactly it was - few people imagine in details. Pavel Filin, a modern explorer of the Arctic, explains that the Amur riverbed once ran south of the current one. When nature changed the trajectory of the river, the direction of the warm sea current also changed. Therefore, it has become much warmer in Alaska than in Kamchatka and the Far East, although the distance between them is insignificant. If people were able to return the Amur River to its ancient channel, then on the eastern coast of our country it would become much warmer, and fertile lands would appear along the current channel of the Amur.
Projects of the 1930s "for insulation" were far from original. Back in 1871, the well-known Ukrainian public figure and journalist Yakov Demchenko published a book "On the flooding of the Aral-Caspian lowland to improve the climate of neighboring countries." According to his project, the transfer of rivers was needed to create an artificial sea, which was supposed to flood vast expanses of land. A new reservoir with the ports of Saratov, Uralsk, Dzhusaly would appear. With the Azov and Black Seas, it would be connected along the Kumo-Manych depression.
Demchenko believed that such a huge inland sea would cause a sharp increase in natural precipitation in the arid regions of the Volga region, the North Caucasus, Central Asia and Kazakhstan. On these lands, where every third year is dry, the climate will change and become similar to that of Europe. And through the canals connecting the Siberian rivers with the Eurasian Sea, the waterway will pass to the ore and forest resources of Western Siberia and Kazakhstan. All costs will pay off in 50 years. But the tsarist government was not interested in the ideas of the Kiev dreamer.
In the 1930s, on the wave of enthusiasm for the creation of a new state, there was a lot of talk about this, but it did not come to real proposals. After the Great Patriotic War, many ideas related to the renovation of the country were revived. They carried people away, forcing them to forget pressing everyday problems. Inspired by the success of the construction of powerful hydroelectric power plants on the Volga, Dnieper, Don, as well as the expectation of the commissioning of the next hydroelectric power plants - the Irkutsk and Bratsk on the Angara, Krasnoyarsk on the Yenisei, some engineers, together with scientists, put forward grandiose plans for "turning the Siberian rivers".
Back in 1948, academician Vladimir Obruchev wrote about the possibility of turning the rivers to Stalin, but he did not pay attention to it. Then they tried to raise the project on the shield in the 1950s, but amid great political upheavals, it again turned out to be unclaimed. However, it was not forgotten.
Captured by dreams
“Take a look at the map of our Motherland,” the dreamers of the 1960s demanded. - How many rivers carry their waters into the dead space of the Arctic Ocean! Carry to turn them into ice. At the same time, in the vast deserts of the southern republics, the demand for fresh water is extremely high, but at the same time there are fertile soils and a lot of solar heat. Nature has separated the water of the north from the southern warmth and fertile soils."
Indeed, the flow of rivers on the territory of Russia and the former southern union republics is uneven: in the north of Russia it is much higher. The runoff of the largest Siberian rivers - the Yenisei, Ob and Lena - is equal to 1430 billion cubic meters of water per year! This indisputable fact then seemed like a flagrant injustice. Enthusiasts believed that what nature had “done”, the Soviet man could change! It will turn the streams of the Yenisei and Ob rivers to the south - to the Turan and Caspian lowlands, to Central Kazakhstan. And this, to some extent, will allow transferring part of the solar heat to the north, to Siberia. The following will happen: the moisture that entered the air currents in the south will move to Siberia, where it will release as much heat as was spent on its evaporation!
Despite the fact that in itself the plan of “turning the rivers” to the south and “warming” Siberia already seemed grandiose in design, some dreamers dreamed of more. They were indignant at the unfair distribution of heat throughout the planet: “Is it fair that, say, Siberia is cold for a good half of the year … while in Africa the tropical sun beats down all year round and people there do not know snow. Isn't it possible to divide equally among all the warmth of the sun's rays? There is such a project: to create a ring of the smallest solid particles around our planet using rockets. Glittering in the rays of the Sun, this cloud will reflect and distribute light and, along with it, heat evenly throughout the Earth. The night will disappear. Winter will not come. The ice of the poles will melt …”.
We wanted the best
As you can see, the plans were serious. But for their implementation it was required to make a decision at the state level. After the May plenum of the Central Committee of the CPSU in 1966, they got down to business in earnest. We paid special attention to the turn of the Ob River. On the Ob, it was planned to build a large Nizhne-Obskaya hydroelectric power station, it was supposed to transfer the waters of the Yenisei and Ob from the Nizhne-Obsk reservoir through the Turgai watershed to Lake Chelkar-Tengiz.
This unknown reservoir was supposed to become the largest in Kazakhstan, where Siberian water would flow evenly throughout the year. From there, moisture will flow through two large canals to the west and south for irrigation and watering of tens of millions of hectares of fertile land. One of the canals, "Yuzhny", will supply water to the lands of Kazakhstan, and the other canal, "Zapadny", will carry water to the basins of the Emba and Ural rivers, and will approach the city of Uralsk.
But in addition to the Turan and Caspian lowlands, the regions of southern Ukraine, Crimea, the Dnieper, Don, and Kuban basins also needed irrigation. For these places, water was supposed to be taken from the northern rivers - Pechora, Northern Dvina, Mezen and Onega, the total flow of which is 286 billion cubic meters, that is, much more than the flow of the Volga.
The plenary proposed a long-term program. In the short term, it was decided to transfer only 25 billion cubic meters of water per year. How was it technically proposed to cope with this task?
From the reservoirs (in the area of the confluence of the Irtysh and Tobol), the water raised by pumps to a height of 10-16 meters will go along the Irtysh floodplain and floodplain terrace to the city of Zavodoukovsk. The Turgai plateau is located here, and pumping stations of two pumping stages will raise the water by another 55-57 meters. The total height that Siberian water will have to overcome in order to turn south is 70-75 meters. And then it will go by itself. From Zavodoukovsk to the Amu Darya, about 2,200 kilometers, so a large and full-flowing river will flow, which will ensure a stable flow into the Aral Sea.
If at the first stage of using the Siberian rivers from the confluence of the Irtysh and Tobol, 25 billion cubic meters of water per year go to the south, then at the second stage this figure will increase to 50, and at the third - to 75-80 billion cubic meters! With these indicators, some specialists still had doubts: would the deep Ob become shallow? "No!" - answered them. To prevent this from happening, at the third stage, it is planned to transfer part of the Yenisei runoff to the Ob. Powerful pumps will begin to pump its water into the tributaries of the Ob - Ket or Chulym. From them to the Novosibirsk reservoir, and from there through the Kulundinsky main canal - to the Pavlodar reservoir on the Irtysh. The latter will receive everything that is taken from him and will satisfy the needs of desert Kazakhstan.
However, no one has been able to substantiate the objective necessity of such a gigantic transfer of waters. The dreamers proceeded from the fact that irrigated land gives twice the yield than non-irrigated land. But it is not enough just to put water on the fields. We also need to build irrigation systems on areas of millions of hectares, worth billions of rubles. Not to mention the possible costs of building pumping stations and canals.
Due to the lack of evidence of the need for such costs, as well as the lack of research on the quality and quantity of lands suitable for irrigation, all of the above proposals have not been implemented. As they say, we wanted the best, but … fortunately, it didn't work out.
Magazine: Mysteries of History No. 31, Irina Strekalova