Russia tries to patch up an impossible problem stemming from the annexation of Crimea, as a water emergency is absorbing billions of taxpayers rubles.
Ukraine dammed the North Crimean Canal seven years ago, cutting off the source of nearly 90% of the region’s fresh water and setting it back to the pre-1960s, when much was an arid steppe.
In the capital Simferopol and elsewhere, water has been rationed. The need to pour even more cash into Crimea means Russians might lose out elsewhere. Russia has already been suffering in an economy slowed by Western sanctions incurred over the move and other misdeeds, bearing the brunt of the Kremlin’s decision to focus on stability over growth, limiting pandemic income support.
Crimea cost 1.5 trillion rubles to assist it in the first five years of occupation, equivalent to roughly two years of Russia’s education budget. The subsidies, grants and subventions, this year will alone add up to around $1.4 billion, which is set to rise.
Without the water from the Dnieper River, Crimea’s arable land has shrunk, from 130,000 hectares in 2013 to 14,000 in 2017. This makes the Water problem of Crimea, not the only struggle.