Rich water dimension
Water is an abundant treasure in Belarus, unlike elsewhere, but rational use remains essential
Is Belarus rich in water reserves? The departmental head overseeing levels of air pollution and water resources (of the Belarusian Ministry for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection), Mr. Zavialov, admits that per capita access to water in Belarus equals that of the average European (5,800 cubic metres) while exceeding that of Poland or Ukraine (just 1,700 cubic metres). The Vitebsk and Grodno regions enjoy the most abundant water resources, with the Brest and Gomel region having the lowest levels.
Belarus’ surface water comprises 20,800 rivers, around 10,800 lakes, and over 1,500 ponds and reservoirs. The Dnieper, Zapadnaya Dvina, Nieman, Zapadny Bug, Pripyat, Berezina and Sozh are the largest rivers, while the Naroch, Osveiskoe, Chervonoe, Lukomskoe and Drivyaty are the largest lakes.
Belarus also has great volumes of underground water, including healing springs: there are 235 mineral water wells, with 124 used by spas and water bottling facilities and over 80 used by sanatoriums.
Ability to share
Many countries are experiencing a deficiency in clean drinking water and the situation is unlikely to improve, asserts PR departmental head Victor Radivinovsky, of the UN Representation to Belarus. He notes that water resources are essential to life on Earth, yet 85 percent of global waste water is not cleaned before discharge, polluting sources. Pure drinking water reserves are falling and, over the past few decades, prices have risen accordingly.
The question arises whether Belarus can share its rich reserves of water. Andrey Kovtukho, the General Director of the Belarusian Scientific-Research Geological Exploration Institute, stresses, “Belarus has a great deal of underground water. Consumption of bottled drinking water is increasing annually, with over 30 facilities involved in the process. As regards exports, only one Belarusian company sells bottled water abroad: to Lithuania.”
Our closest neighbours have their own water resources, while high transportation costs make it unprofitable to sell water abroad. Israel has to desalinate sea water but Belarus is unable to export there at a profit. Nevertheless, Mr. Kovtukho believes that our ‘blue wealth’ could yet generate income. Nineteen underground water reserves have been prepared and are seeking investors, to allow Belarusian mineral water to be sold in Europe. As Mr. Kovtukho admits, a water pipe to those countries in need is not the solution, since quality could not be maintained.
Modern technology envisions bottling directly at source, without preparation, to preserve natural water quality. Having provided such drinking water to its citizens, Belarus could become a life-giving source for other states, which have failed to protect their vital resource in due time.