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Soviet water diversion project generates hope and opposition

A controversial project to divert water from two giant Siberian rivers to Central Asia may be crucial to Kremlin plans to expand irrigation systems by the end of the century, Western diplomats said Thursday. The construction project would be one of the biggest ever undertaken, involving the channeling of water southward from the Ob and Irtysh Rivers through a 1,580-mile canal to the Aral Sea. It would irrigate a vast arid area.

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But it has come under fire from both Soviet and Western environmentalists who argue that it could could disrupt weather patterns in the Northern Hemisphere by severely disrupting the ecological balance.

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