European Earth Observation Portal reports on new results of satellite-based monitoring of the hydraulic engineering structures construction activities at the Argun river have been obtained. Specialists of NGO Transparent World and «Dauria» International Protected Area, supported by ScanEx RDC, monitor the construction progress on the territory of China near the Russian border.
Please be reminded that in spring 2009 the detailed space imagery enabled to define that canal construction activities to transfer water from Hailar river (upper reach of the Argun River on the Chinese border) into the lake Dalainor (Dalai or Hulun lake) started in June-July 2008. In June 2009 the facility was 7 km long and 50-60 km wide. The canal was filled with water and connected to the Hulungou creek, which before the construction was the bed of a dried out river formerly connecting Hailar river and the Dalai lake (Hulun).
According to SPOT 4 and Landsat 5 satellites data, acquired on August 28-29 by the ScanEx’s «UniScan» receiving station, the construction of the canal on the territory of the Chinese Hulunber region near the border with Russia has been completed and supplies water to Hulungou. Its bed has been widened in some locations and is filled with water up to the inflow into Dalai lake.
The expected design water intake of the Chinese hydraulic facility constitutes 1,05 km3/year (33,3 m3/sec), which may have an adverse impact on the upper reach of the trans-borber Argun river.
— It is important to take into account that the annual inflow in the upper Argun river in wet years exceeds 6 km3, whereas in dry years only 1.5 km3. Massive water flow through the hydraulic facilities in China brings the disturbance of the hydrological regime of Argun river, first of all the degradation of the bottom-land meadows — the habitat of uncommon birds the main source of food for animals during the dry season. With water content decreased the situation with pollution will become even worse. Further on the operation of water reservoirs in the upper Hailar river will take 1 km3/year more and may result in direct water shortage for the near-Argun villages and in an increased aridization of the climate in the Argun valley, — believes the expert of the «Rivers without borders» coalition, an official of the Daursky biosphere zapovednik (nature reserve) Evgeny Simonov.
It should be noted that according to official reports of the Russian governmental authorities, the environmental impact assessment results of the water transfer, first time requested back in 2007, have not been received yet from China. There are still no explanations about the current construction activities on the canal and no data on the Hailar upper river water reservoirs being constructed. Less than one year ago, on November 12, 2008 Russia and China signed a memorandum about the creation of a mechanism of mutual reporting and data exchange in case of trans-border ecological emergencies. Even earlier on January 28, 2008 an Agreement between the Russian and Chinese governments was signed about the rational use and protection of trans-border waters.
Roman Chalov, one of the leading river water bed specialists, Head of Soil Erosion and River Bed Processes Lab of the Lomonosov Moscow State University’s Geographic Department, shared his opinion on this problem: — A comprehensive study of this problem is required. And not only due to construction activities in China. Water transfer in our country and in adjacent countries was done on many occasions: Moscow-Volga, Irtysh-Karaganda in Kazakhstan, hydraulic structures in the North Caucasus, in the Crimea. Thanks to criticism of water transfer issues during the perestroika period many projects and studies have been tabooed, however the problem is still there.
ScanEx Center will carry on supporting the implementation of the hydraulic structures satellite-based monitoring project in the Argun river basin. ScanNet technology can be applied for monitoring of construction progress based on highly repetitive imagery to resolve special tasks of involved and responsible organizations.