Volga

The Volga River. Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. rel=
The Volga River. Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Creative Commons License
© Vladislav Bezrukov

Russia's national river

The Volga is the largest river in Europe in terms of length, discharge, and watershed. It starts in the Valday Hills of northwestern Russia and flows 3,700 km before creating this delta and pouring into the Caspian Sea.

The river flows through Russia's heavily populated western region and is widely viewed as the national river of Russia. Eleven out of the twenty largest cities of Russia, including its capital Moscow, are situated in the Volga basin.

The Volga Delta has a length of about 160 kilometres and includes as many as 500 channels and smaller rivers. The largest estuary in Europe, it is the only place in Russia where pelicans, flamingoes, and lotuses may be found.

The Volga drains most of Western Russia. Its many large reservoirs provide irrigation and hydroelectric power. The Moscow Canal, the Volga-Don Canal, and the Volga-Baltic Waterway form navigable waterways connecting Moscow to the White Sea, the Baltic Sea, the Caspian Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

The fertile river valley provides large quantities of wheat, and also has many mineral riches. A substantial petroleum industry centres on the Volga valley. Other minerals include natural gas, salt, and potash. The Volga Delta and the nearby Caspian Sea offer superb fishing grounds. Astrakhan, at the delta, is the centre of the caviar industry.

Current threats
Dams upstream have altered the natural flow regime of the river thus negatively affecting the productivity of the delta and its fauna. Planned impoundments, water diversions, industrial, agricultural, and domestic pollution further threaten the health of populations dependent upon the delta ecosystem. Cyanobacterial blooms and deoxygentation have increased in recent years.

Some species of sturgeon – prized for their caviar – have been poached almost to the brink of extinction in the Volga River. According to the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species all but two species of sturgeon are classified as threatened: six are critically endangered, eight are endangered, six are vulnerable, and one is lower risk (near threatened).

Other issues affecting the long term health of the river include poor water quality, weak basin management, and low public awareness and participation in the decision-making processes.1
Volga River watershed. / ©: Revenga, C., S. Murray, J. Abramovitz, and A. Hammond, 1998. Watersheds of the World: Ecological Value and Vulnerability. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.
Volga River watershed.
© Revenga, C., S. Murray, J. Abramovitz, and A. Hammond, 1998. Watersheds of the World: Ecological Value and Vulnerability. Washington, DC: World Resources Institute.
Countries
Russia

Basin population
around 56.5 million

Size
1,410,951 km2

Length
3,692 km

Key species
Sturgeon species found in the delta are the Russian, Beluga, Sterlet, and Stellate sturgeons, in addition to migratory species such as Whitefish and Herrings. White-eyed bream and the endemic Volga lamprey. Among the unusual birds found here are the Dalmatian pelican, Great white egret, and Penduline tit.

Livelihood facts
Agriculture, hydropwer, fisheries

Related links

Sources

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