How Long Is The Yenisei River

Standing at 5,539 kilometers, the Yenisei river runs through several Russian regions, draining the northern part of Kazakhstan and the Mongolian region of Khovsgol Nuur. The Yenisei is one of the three great rivers of Russia and is the longest river in the country. It is the largest in terms of catchment area and is part of the Yenisei–Angara–Selenga–Ider river system which includes the Lena River. The river originates in Mongolia and flows into the Kara Sea, dispelling hefty amounts of freshwater and creating ripple effects on the region’s groundwater levels, climate, and vegetation.

The Yenisei is a major source of water for fishing, hydropower plants, and household and industrial water supply. A number of iconic species use the river for migration and breeding purposes, including the critically endangered Pygmy Marbled Crayfish, the sturgeon, and the Chinese Giant Salamander. The flood season usually lasts from June to August and the average discharge at the mouth is 16,637 cubic metres per second, making it one of the most powerful rivers in the entire world.

The Yenisei River plays a fundamental role in the environment and helps to form the cultural identity of many Russians. According to experts, the prevalence of traditional housing and fishery communities has declined over the past decades in favour of industrial and recreational developments. However, the river has continued to act as a source of stability, leading to the growth of fresh food markets and sport-fishing.

The local population has supported campaigns over the past years to raise awareness of the river’s importance. As a result, government officials have increased public funding for environment protection, creating the basis for conservation processes that involve the collaboration of local communities, non-governmental organisations, scientific investigators, and government representatives.

Despite the many efforts, the Yenisei river is struggling with the long-term effects of historic and ongoing pollution. One of the most visible manifestations is the presence of plastic waste and litter, as more than 5,000 tons of plastic are dumped into the river each year.

The river’s regulation and use are additionally hampered by the illegal exploitation of natural resources and infrastructure construction. Furthermore, climate change is speeding up the tempo of environmental degradation, leading to the disappearance of flora and fauna species and expanding ecosystem disruption.


Resource extraction activities such as mining and logging are an important contributor to deforestation. The Russian government reviews and permits timber harvesting projects surrounding the Yenisei river, with reports showing that up to 6 square km of forest is cut down every year. The clear cutting of forests affects water flow and temperature, as well as deprives other species of their original habitats.

In addition, illegal logging caused by unsustainable timber harvesting activities contributes heavily to the extinction and loss of key species that are vital for the ecological balance of the region. Logging activities are particularly intense in the Pravaya Yenisei region and the Khakan province.

The over exploitation of resources and land area added to the pressures of climate change has caused an unprecedented species reduction and extinction in the Yenisei river basin in recent years. This is due to the fact that the river flows across regions of rich biological diversity, making it an extremely important ecosystem.


The index of contamination in the Yenisei River is considered very high, with the presence of pollutants caused by untreated wastewater and hazardous chemicals disposed by industrial facilities in the area.

Furthermore, experts estimate that 80% of wastewater in the area is untreated and only 5% is harnessed for power use. Consequently, the accumulation of pollutants sedimented in the riverbed has caused the proliferation of anaerobic bacteria, which are threatening to local species and human health.

The presence of toxic waste from industrial activity is one of the most pressing problems of the Yenisei river. A large scale of toxic agents can be detected, from heavy metals to radioactive substances.


The conservation and recovery of the Yenisei river is a complex process and it requires the collaboration of multiple stakeholders to make meaningful changes.

Greater importance should be given to environmental protection. In recent years, more wastes have been diverted form the river, while new regulations have pushed the authorities to adopt more stringent procedures to identify and sanction violations.

In addition, several projects are ongoing or planned to reduce water pollution, restore water resources, and include the local population in the talks. An example is the joint initiative between the Russian and Finnish governments, which aims at providing clean drinking water through efficient wastewater treatment technologies. The project also includes mechanisms for the economical self-sustainment of the population.

Finally, numerous educational programmes have been created in order to disseminate environmental awareness, particularly among the younger generations. Local communities and authorities are also involved in education campaigns regarding the preservation of a healthy environment, contributing to the understanding of the importance of conservation.

International Cooperation

The importance of the Yenisei river transcends national boundaries and a transboundary agreement has been signed between Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia in order to harmonise the protection of the river’s ecosystem.

The agreement between the states includes pledges to abstain from any civil engineering or industrial activity near the river banks, enforce the dismantlement of any existing structure or constructions, and collaborate in joint data collection and research activities.

By joining forces to protect the Yenisei, the states have also looked into other transboundary aspects, such as the prevention of alien invasives species and the restoration of wetlands and peatlands.

Environmental Impact

It is clear that the fragility of the Yenisei river ecosystem can no longer be overlooked. The factors of relentless resource extraction, illegal logging and ocean pollution are disrupting the environment and putting lives at risk.

Existing initiatives are difficult and expensive to enforce, and local communities often lack the knowledge, resources and facilities to contribute to the restoration of the river. Long-term solutions are therefore needed if we want to restore the ground and protect the biodiversity of the region.

Climate Change

Global warming is another major threat to the Yenisei river basin. As a result, the regions surrounding the river are experiencing higher temperatures that might negatively affect flooding and displacement of fish species.

The international agreement, recently signed by the three states, includes the promotion of renewable energy sources and the development of sustainable practices for the purpose of mitigating climate change impacts on the environment. A large portion of the populations around the Yenisei are already feeling the effects of climate change, and the need for rapid measures is becoming increasingly evident.

Long-Term Preservation

Efforts must also be focused on long-term conservation of the natural reserves of the Yenisei river basin, particularly the seas and wetlands affected by the floods. The rebirth of a healthier ecosystem requires the collaboration of multiple stakeholders, including the local population, international organisations, environmental experts, and governmental agencies.

Given the magnitude of the damages inflicted on the river, the prospect of a complete environmental restoration is unlikely to happen in a short time, and more decisive efforts should be taken to counteract the effects of global warming and resource exploitation.

Carolyn Johnston is an avid traveler with a particular interest in the world's most famous rivers. She loves to explore different cultures, landscapes, and history through her travels. Carolyn has had the opportunity to sail down the Nile, raft through the Grand Canyon, and cruise along the Amazon.

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