Pechora-Kama Canal

Pechora-Kama Canal

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Pechora–Kama Canal or sometimes Kama–Pechora Canal was a proposed canal intended to link up the basin of the Pechora River
Pechora River
The Pechora River is a river in northwest Russia which flows north into the Arctic Ocean on the west side of the Ural Mountains. It lies mostly in the Komi Republic but the northernmost part crosses the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. It is 1,809 km long and its basin is 322,000 square kilometers...

 in the north of European Russia with the basin of the Kama
Kama River
Kama is a major river in Russia, the longest left tributary of the Volga and the largest one in discharge; in fact, it is larger than the Volga before junction....

, a tributary of the Volga
Volga River
The Volga is the largest river in Europe in terms of length, discharge, and watershed. It flows through central Russia, and is widely viewed as the national river of Russia. Out of the twenty largest cities of Russia, eleven, including the capital Moscow, are situated in the Volga's drainage...

. An accomplishment of this project would integrate the Pechora into the system of waterways of European Russia, centered on the Volga – something that was of particular importance before the advent of the railways, or before the first railway reached the Pechora in the 1940s. Later on, the project was proposed mostly for the sake of transfer of Pechora's water to the Volga and further on to the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...


The 19th century proposals

In the 19th century, communication between the Kama and the Pechora was conducted mostly over a 40-km portage
Portage or portaging refers to the practice of carrying watercraft or cargo over land to avoid river obstacles, or between two bodies of water. A place where this carrying occurs is also called a portage; a person doing the carrying is called a porter.The English word portage is derived from the...

 road between Cherdyn
Cherdyn is a town and the administrative center of Cherdynsky District of Perm Krai, Russia. Population: The Kolva River flows by the town....

 and Yaksha
Yaksha, Komi Republic
Yaksha is a settlement in Troitsko-Pechorsky District of the Komi Republic, Russia, located in the upper streams of the Pechora River. Population: 1,218 ; 1,793 ....

. There was also an option to use very small boats that could go up the uppermost reaches of Kama and Pechora tributaries, and cart the goods over the 4 km portage remaining. Poor river and road conditions made transportation into and out the Pechora basin very expensive, and various improvement projects, including a narrow-gauge portage railroad were proposed. Nothing much was ever done, however.

The nuclear option

A canal between the Pechora and the Kama was part of a plan for a "reconstruction of Volga and its basin", approved
in November 1933, by a special conference of the USSR Academy of Sciences. Research in that direction was then conducted by Hydroproject
Hydroproject is a Russian hydrotechnical design firm. Based in Moscow, it has a number of branches around the country. Its main activities are design of dams, hydroelectric stations, canals, sluices, etc....

, the dam and canal institute led by Sergey Yakovlevich Zhuk . Some design plans were developed by Zhuk's institute, but without either much publicity or actual construction work.
The canal plan was given a new life in 1961 during Khrushchev's premiership. Now it was part of an even grander scheme for "Northern river reversal
Northern river reversal
The Northern river reversal or Siberian river reversal was an ambitious project to divert the flow of the Northern rivers in the Soviet Union, which "uselessly" drain into the Arctic Ocean, southwards towards the populated agricultural areas of Central Asia, which lack water.Research and planning...

", which also included similar river water diversion projects in Siberia.

Unlike most other parts of the grand river rerouting scheme, the Pechora to Kama route did not just stay on the drawing board. It saw actual on-the-ground work done, of the most unusual kind: on March 23, 1971, three 15-kiloton underground nuclear charges were exploded near the village of Vasyukovo in Cherdynsky District
Cherdynsky District
Cherdynsky District is an administrative district of Perm Krai, Russia; one of the thirty-three in the krai. Municipally, it is incorporated as Cherdynsky Municipal District...

 of Perm Oblast
Perm Oblast
Until December 1, 2005, Perm Oblast was a federal subject of Russia in Privolzhsky Federal District. According to the results of the referendum held in October 2004, Perm Oblast was merged with Komi-Permyak Autonomous Okrug to form Perm Krai.The oblast was named after its administrative center,...

, some 100 km north of the town of Krasnovishersk
-History:The town grew out of the settlement of Vizhaikha . Since 1926, the town served as the 4th branch of the Solovki prison camp, and since 1929—as the independent management of the Vishera camps...

. This nuclear test, known as Taiga, part of the Soviet peaceful nuclear explosions program
Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy
Nuclear Explosions for the National Economy , was a Soviet program to investigate peaceful nuclear explosions . It was analogous to the US program Operation Plowshare....

, was intended to demonstrate the feasibility of using nuclear explosions for canal construction. The triple blast created a crater over 600 meters long. It was decided later on that building an entire canal in this fashion, using potentially several hundreds of nuclear charges would not be feasible, and the "nuclear option" for the canal excavation was abandoned.

The Northern river reversal plan was completely abandoned by the government in 1986.

Around 2000, local environmentalists carried out several expeditions to the Taiga crater (61°18′21"N 56°35′55"E), and met with the only person still residing in the Vasyukovo village. The fences surrounding the crater had rusted away and fallen down, and the "Atomic Lake" is now a popular fishing place for the residents of the other nearby villages, while its shores are known for the abundance of edible mushrooms. The area is also visited by the people who pick metal cables etc. left over from the original test, for selling to scrap metal
Scrap Metal
Scrap Metal were a band from Broome, Western Australia who played rock music with elements of country and reggae. The members had Aboriginal, Irish, Filipino, French, Chinese, Scottish, Indonesian and Japanese heritage. The band toured nationally as part of the Bran Nue Dae musical and with...

Recycling is processing used materials into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution and water pollution by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse...

businesses. The environmentalists recommended that the crater lake be fenced again, on the account of the residual radioactivity.