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Report of the U.S.S.R.

Report by President Melnikov to Council on 5 August, 1987, Ottawa, Canada. I shall try to inform you shortly about some directions in studying the permafrost problems in the U.S.S.R.

Much attention is paid now to agriculture in the North, especially to the development and fertility of poor soils. The  amelioration in permafrost areas needs special irrigation methods. It is necessary to determine the amount of water because of the instability of the permafrost table. Too much water causes negative results. Correct irrigation, for example, in Yakutia, promotes rich productivity of meadows, a big harvest of vegetables and root crops. It is of great importance for the supply of local food for the natives.

Environmental protection in permafrost areas and in areas of deep seasonal freezing is a significant problem too. Many agencies that have carried out investigations in the developing area of the North pay attention to the protection measures which provide correct land use management.

The geological surveys and site investigations for the construction of plants, cities, mines, railways and pipelines of long extent destroy landscapes in permafrost areas and threaten the stability of constructions. The scientific programs include special mapping of the developimg sites showing dynamic trends of cryogenic geomorphological processes such as thermokarst, frost heaving, frost cracking, solifluction, etc., and predicting changes in permafrost layers connected with heat exchange on the earth surface caused by development. The revegetation and reconstruction of the disturbed areas and landscapes, environmental monitoring both on and under the earth surface, especially of the pollution of ground water, also
are present in programs.

Effective environmental protection measures, based on results of investigations, provide correct management of the industry and agriculture in the far North, Siberia and Far East.

The problem of water diversion from the North to the South has been discussed for many years in the U.S.S.R. There have been plans to divert part of the runoff of some northern rivers and to direct the flow to the territories of the south middle Asia republics (Turkistan) to ameliorate the poor water resources of the country. Many research institutes cooperated to investigate and solve the problem. Its complexity provoked discussions and the situation became critical. The experienced scientists of the Academy of Sciences objected against the project because a withdrawal of large amounts of water from the northern rivers could cause ecological changes in the coastal region of the Polar ocean and the northern rivers themselves. The conclusion of the scientists about a lack of adequate knowledge on the ecology of the Northforced the government to decide to stop the work connected with the project of water diversion from north to the south.

Engineering geocryology is a large part ,of our investigations. Much attention is paid to the construction of gas and oil pipelines, railways, highways and to the conditions of their operation. It is worthwhile mentioning the monitoring of ground temperature regimes in permafrost especially in sites of complicated conditions. We have got very interesting data on the behavior of the Vilui hydropower station in Yakutia for a period of 15 years.

The distribution of ground water in permafrost and the peculiarities of its utilization in different conditions are.studied too.

A map of hydro-geocryological regions (a scale 1:5 000 000) of East Siberia for an area of about 8 million square kilometers has been worked out and printed by the Permafrost Institute. It is well known that some large cities have been erected in the North of the U.S.S.R., such as Norilsk, Magadan, Yakutsk, Mirny, and Nerjungri. But the water supply and sewage of these cities are in an unsatisfactory condition and partly absent. The technology and esthetics of those constructions are to be improved. New geocryological research departments were created by the Permafrost Institute in the cities of Chita and Norilsk to intensify the investigations.

A new laboratory should be built in the Magadan region. Special research work, corresponding to the peculiar geocryological
conditions of the areas are being carried out at the Vilui, Igagka and Alma Ata high mountain stations.

Finally, I would like to propose the following problems for common international research work.

  1. Methods and technology of development of areas with large masses of underground ice.
  2. The formation and propagation of man-induced salinity of the soil and methods of preventing the ground from becoming saline.
  3. Storage of radioactive wastes in permafrost.
  4. Methods and technology for exploiting gas hydrate beds.
  5. Permafrost as a depository of information on past climatic fluctuations during hundreds and thousands of years (monitoring of permafrost).

Some scientists say that permafrost has existed.on the earth for hundreds of thousands to about one million years. The problem must be investigated. To finish my review, I would like to inform you that the Scientific Council is planning to issue a special journal Geocryology to be published four times a year with each volume comprising 240 typewritten pages. We have to determine the circulation of the journal so it is desirable to know how many members of the International Permafrost Association would wish to subscribe to the journal. Let us know, please. The cost will be eight roubles yearly. It will be printed in Russian with an English resume.