Luzhkov's Book Thesis 'Madness'

Itar-TassLuzhkov at the presentation of his new book "Water and Peace" on Thursday.
Mayor Yury Luzhkov has written books on love and the Kuril Islands. His latest tome, "Water and Peace," revives a grandiose Soviet plan to redirect Siberian rivers to irrigate cotton fields in Central Asia.

On the cover, Stalin leans over a map of the Soviet Union in a propaganda poster with the slogan "Victory Over Drought!"

The project "was thoughtlessly closed at the beginning of Gorbachev's perestroika," a news release from the mayor's office reads. It calls the scheme a "unique megaproject of the state and business."

Luzhkov presented the 170-page book at the Mayor's Office on Thursday. Journalists weren't allowed to ask questions, Kommersant wrote.

The project "will give us the possibility to sell water in the republics of Central Asia," Luzhkov said, Kommersant reported.

The idea to divert water from Siberian rivers came under serious consideration after World War II, and Brezhnev poured funds into research in the 1970s.

Facing serious opposition from experts and campaigners, the Central Committee wound up the scheme in 1986.

The mayor is a long-term advocate of the idea. In 2002, he sent a letter to then-President Vladimir Putin calling for the construction of a 2,550-kilometer canal from Khanty-Mansiisk to Central Asia via Kazakhstan.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov have voiced support for the plan.

On Friday, Greenpeace expert Mikhail Kreindlin called the plan "absolute madness, even a criminal project."

Soviet irrigation projects in Central Asia created "absolutely dead territories," he said on Friday. "We are making the same mistake. The water would sink into the sand."

The Federal Water Resources Agency and prominent academics have spoken out against the plan, Kreindlin said. "I don't believe our authorities would go so far as to support such a project."

A spokeswoman for the Natural Resources Ministry said she couldn't comment on the project.