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    MOSCOW, February 19, 2004. (RIA Novosti) - At its regular session this Thursday the Russian government has approved in broad outline a new version of the Water Code of the Russian Federation, first deputy minister of economic development and trade Mukhamed Tsikanov has told journalists.

    According to him, the code will be finalized within a month and submitted to the State Duma (the lower house of the Russian parliament).

    Under the Water Code, ten river basin districts will be set up in Russia and a new state structure will coordinate their work.

    The Water Code legislatively restricts the discharge of contaminants and toughens environmental requirements.

    As compared to the previous version, the new Code simplifies the access of water users to water resources. "Earlier, five permissions were required; today water users have to file only one application," Tsikanov stressed.

    "Finally, a single state structure in charge of water bodies will be set up to coordinate the activities of water users," Tsikanov noted.

    According to the representative of the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the procedure of payments for the use of water bodies has also changed. "In the transitional period, until the Water Tax is enacted, a water tax will be charged. After the Tax Code is approved, the water tax will be replaced by payments to the federal budget at rates to be determined proceeding from a particular river basin district." The new version of the Water Code stipulates that the country's entire territory will be divided into water basin districts to include one or several river basins where rivers flowing into seas or lakes are considered as the main water bodies.

    The Code stipulates the creation of 10 water basin districts: the Baltic water basin (the Neva, the Narva and other rivers flowing into the Baltic Sea), the Barents-White Sea water basin (the Northern Dvina, the Pechora and other rivers), the Don River water basin (the Don, the Dnieper), the Kuban River water basin (the Kuban and the rivers of the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus), the West-Caspian water basin (the Terek, the Sulak, the Kuma), the Volga-Caspian water basin (the Volga, the Urals), the Ob water basin (the Ob and the rivers flowing into the Kara Sea), the Yenisei water basin (the Yenisei and the rivers flowing into the ocean in the area of Taimyr), the East-Siberian basin (the Lena, the Indigirka, the Kolyma) and the Amur-Pacific water basin (the Amur and the rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean).

    Water bodies will be provided for use under contracts to be signed between an authorized federal executive agency and a water user.

    Payments for the use of water bodies will involve non-tax payments to the budget of the Russian Federation. The rates of payments for the use of water bodies will be set by federal law.

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