Even as the war still rages on many fronts, with towns and cities falling to rubble, one after the other — there are some pockets of relative peace where constructive work is going on. Today I have a potpourri of a few such stories.
Nikolaev: No H2O
But, since we are talking critical infrastructure, I’ll start with a “bad news” piece, this is regarding the city of Nikolaev. Which has no water. The reporter is Alyona Zadorozhnaya. Nikolaev is still under Ukrainian administration, and it is the Ukrainian army which is to blame for this situation. According to Ukrainian pundit Larisa Shesler: “It was the Ukrainian side which damaged the water pipe when they launched their counter-offensive against Kherson.” Approximately 400,000 people live in this city; in other words, it’s huge, by Ukrainian standards.
Nikolaev has been without water since April 12. Nikolaev Governor Vitaly Kim, a Ukrainian Nationalist fanatic who sees everything through an ideological lens, does not seem to think that it’s his job to restore the water. “Repairs cannot take place while battles are continuing,” he opines.
Shesler again: “This [water pipe] is the single source of drinking water. Leaving people without water is tantamount to a humanitarian catastrophe.”
I will try to follow this story and see if there is some improvement. For the time being, file this under This is what happens when you appoint ideologues instead of technocrats, to administer your regions.
Mariupol Ground Zero
The big gorilla in the room: Mariupol. Looking at scenes of the utter devastation, one wonders, where to even start? It would be like walking back into your house after a tornado struck it, and all your stuff was just lying in pieces scattered everywhere, you wouldn’t even know where to begin picking up. Fortunately, there are stalwart people out there who do this for a living.
I have this piece from May 8, the reporter is Dmitry Zubarev. There is a fellow with the interesting name Marat Shakirzyanovich Khusnullin, who works for the Russian Government in various capacities, with a rank of Deputy Prime-Minister. As one might tell from his name, Marat is an ethnic Tatar. He hails from the Tatar Autonomous Region under the Russian Federation, and curates entire regions, including Crimea and Sebastopol. With a Candidate degree in Economics, his specialty is construction, and he helped build a lot of cool stuff in many cities, including Moscow. Marat has a wife, a son, and two daughters. The Russian Government recently promoted him, then dispatched him to Mariupol and Volnovakha to see for himself, in person, and start to draw up a recovery plan. Donetsk leader Denis Pushilin was very happy to see Marat arrive in town. There is a lot to do, in a very short amount of time. Ominously though, Pushilin warns people that the ensuing construction frenzy might not be up to the highest international standards: “These [results] may not be up to standard, since we are facing a construction of unprecedented scale, with very short timelines.”
That’s understandable but still, as a non expert, I can only peep hoarsely: “Just please don’t skimp on safety.” After all, safety should not be an afterthought, it should be baked into the very foundations of every project. I learned that in Safety Class. If you build something shoddily and it collapses later and buries people under the rubble, then that won’t be a very good look, will it? Just imagine the gloatings of the Ukrainian Nationalists if that were to happen.
Anyhow, as part of this aggressive timeline, Pushilin promises that the Port of Mariupol should be unblocked by the end of May. That’s just a couple of weeks away!
Pushilin: “Deputy Prime-Minister Khusnullin and I visited the AzovMash [Machine Plant], and also the Mariupol Trading Port. The place is already hopping with workers: We have hired over 400 associates. In May, just as planned, the first production from the [Donetsk] Republic will be offloaded via the port. But [in order to meet this timeline] there is a huge amount of work to do. […] Given how much construction materials will be needed for the restoration of the Donbass, Marat Shakirzyanovich suggested that we use the maritime port as a transport hub, and also as a loading/unloading hub…”
This is what Marat himself had to say, after completing his trip of inspection: “I visited the liberated territories of DPR and LPR. I visited Mariupol, Volnovakh, Luhansk and other cities… […] There is a lot of work to do.”
Indeed there is. So better get to it. Remember the words of Dagestani/Russian hero/martyr Magomed Nurbagandov: “Работайте, братья!” Get to work! But don’t forget to bake in the safety.
Kharkov Gets Electrons – yay!
Last but not least, I have this piece from just yesterday, the reporter is Anton Nikitin. This is a “feel good” piece, because some people in Kharkov Oblast, who haven’t seen an electron since the beginning of April, finally started to receive those magical particles again. From Belgorod, Russia. On May 8 some high-voltage lines got hooked up to the Belgorod grid. Around 15:00 local time (same as Moscow time), suddenly TADA! the lights came on in Kupyansk, Dvurechansk and Velikoburluksk. And 120,000 residents probably went “Ura!” all at the same time.
See, it turns out that, before 2002, there were actually overhead power lines connecting the energy systems of Belgorod and Kharkov. They comprised a backup system whereby each side could provide the other, in case of a partial blackout. In 2002 these lines were taken down. But then, from April 29 through May 8 of this past week, were put back in, once again joining the two energy systems.
Overhead lines were put up for a total distance of 5.2 kilometers. The project organizers hired 57 workers to get the job done. The result was the steady supply (via 16 high-voltage transformer substations) of 110 kV to households in the city of Kupyansk and 200 other populated towns of the Kharkov Oblast.
Kupyansk Mayor Gennady Matsegora: “I am overcome with emotions. This is a real assistance to us, with these high-voltage lines, through which we are receiving 45 megawatts from the Russian Federation. So that now the people of Kupyansk will be receiving uninterrupted light. As a result we have been able to resume work on the water canal, the hospital can resume work, the grain factory, the maternity hospital and the entire infrastructure [of the city]. We will now be able to economize on benzine and diesel, which we were using to run our generators. But the best thing of all is that people will now be able to focus on their main tasks: raising their children and tending to their gardens. Even in these complicated times, we want people to feel comfortable.”
Very interesting and informative. Tis good to read something not concerning violence. Ukraine would have been wise to accept Minsk 2, but I guess that was never going to happen for a number of internal and external reasons.
Thanks, David. I personally like reading about people building cool stuff, and I don’t like violence at all. Don’t like reading it, don’t like seeing it.
Yes, videos of the fighting are very harrowing. I wish that the Ukrainian troops were able to surrender more easily… it really looks as though the “West” is willing to fight the Russians to the last Ukrainian. Probably you are familiar with this famous scene from “17 moments of spring”:
(There used to be a version of this with English subtitles, but no longer.)
And then, with horror, Stierlitz realized that he had become just another stereotype… But yet his salami and cognac were still better than the other guy’s.
Sorry, I meant to give you the Russian version without the dubbed English translation, as the translation hides the amazing quality of the acting.
No, the amazing acting still shows through, whatever language or dubbing. Thanks for posting.
Fwiw, I think rebuilding is really challenging, as one of the trickiest questions is how much of what’s left is (or ought) to be reused – perversely, it may well be cheaper and quicker just to demo everything in an individual project and rebuild from scratch, but at the city level you really want to reuse as much as you can. So, for Mariupol buildings it’ll be a necessarily quick repair-or-demo decision, and the same for things like transformer yards, water pumping stations, yadda yadda yadda.
At least, as a saving grace, it seems to me that the port wasn’t anywhere near as smashed up as Ilyich or Azovstal – the big cranes looked intact, and I’ll guarantee that replacing them would be tough. Certainly a successful (and especially a quick ) reopen will have the usual suspects foaming with wrath, sd well as helping to speed rebuild throughout the Azov sea littoral.
Yeah, I wouldn’t even know where to start. But presumably the construction experts are people who can survey a damaged site and make an intelligent decision, whether to use what’s left and repair or patch; or just demolish everything and start from scratch.
One thing I believe though is that the focus on construction and building can really stimulate the regional economy through investments and employment. Unfortunately, the people who died there are irreplaceable and can never be returned. But if there is a silver lining, we could actually see an economic boom after the war is over. I mean, there will be plenty of jobs for everyone who wants to work, no? Not just construction workers, but every possible trade.
Yes, demolition & reconstruction will (or certainly should) be a huge economic stimulus to the area.
And I think they will be able to attract a lot of foreign investment as well, like the Chinese and Indians. There is a lot of money to be made and spread around.
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