Архив за месяц: Сентябрь 2009

EO-PORTAL reports on water transfer monitoring from space

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.

head&end July2009

Mission to Inner Mongolia to discuss transboundary waters

The Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) of China in a general report regarding on-going activities released on Sept 11 mentions that on July 27-31  Mr. Tan Dingding, the Head of  the Center for Environmental Development of the MEP with a team visited Inner Mongolia to investigate situation on transboundary rivers. The focus of this investigation is environmental situation in  Ergunа (Argun) river basin, including water quality, location of pollution sources, monitoring capability, location of nature reserves and projects for infrastructure development situation.  Representatives of Department of International Relations, Center of Policy Research, various experts took part in this mission. Inner Mongolia EP Bureau organized a meeting in which took part representatives of Hulunbeier Prefecture agencies ( Environment bureau, International department, Reform commission, Forestry, Water Management Bureau, Agriculture).  Tan Dingding  introduced current challenges and international pressures in the field of environmental protection of transboundary basins and stressed importance of this work.

Hulunbeier Prefecture Environmental Protection Bureau representatives explained thoroughly general environmental situation in Erguna River Basin and plan of current investigation. Small investigation team discussed in detail key questions that attract international attention.

web-site: http://www.zhb.gov.cn/info/gxdt/200909/t20090911_160567.htm

Climate in Dauria, implications for adaptation and conservation

Report on  peculiar climate cycles shaping Dauria ecosystems and its implications for conservation and development was presented at the Nature Conservation Congress  organized by the Society of Conservation Biology in Beijing  in middle July 2009.  Report shows how misappreciation of local climate cycles leaads to inappropriate development and subsequent ecological crisis in this region. Link to full ppt download or viewing

Excerpts presented below:




















Link to full ppt download or viewing

Flood on Hailaer-Argun River reaches the canal

Intensive flood wave reached the point of diversion necessarily resulting in massive transfer of river water into the lake. This is the first large flood in the last 10 years, one of those that have been critical for sustaining precious floodplain wetlands of Argun — River. Diversion into the lake will cut off flood peak reducing  inundation of floodplain wetlands of Argun River.  Today the era of primarily natural dynamics of the lake ecosystem is terminated and the former Dalai Lake should, probably,  from now on be called «Hulun Reservoir».
Please see  MODIS  satellite image on Sept 10:


Compare with the same area on August 29th.


See  link to detailed image of new water transfer canal

Rivers without Boundaries

Canal to Divert Dangerous Quantity of Water from China-Russia Border River

Hulunbeier, China – Satellite images received on August 29 reveal that a highly-contested canal has been filled with water and is set to divert much of the Hailaer/Argun River into Dalai (Hulun) Lake in China’s Inner Mongolian Hulunbeier prefecture. (see image below)

International conservation NGOs, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Ramsar Convention Secretariat, and the Russian government have appealed to the Chinese government regarding the canal and reservoir projects since 2007, calling on authorites to revise the projects and conduct a strategic environmental impact assessment in this transboundary river basin. The Chinese complied in 2007, stopping construction on the canal, but digging resumed in mid-2008 and concluded within the past two weeks.

In July of this year, the Russian government sent an official complaint to China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Yang Jiechi, citing deep concern regarding the potential impact of the water diversion on the downstream Russian communities. There has been no reply. On August 25, Vladimir Ivlev of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources International Relations Department noted: “Russia and China should maintain the balance of water resources and preserve the current natural state of transboundary rivers, including the Argun. This is precisely why Russia and China signed the Agreement on Reasonable Use of Transboundary Waters in January 2008.”

Capable of diverting at least 30% of the Hailaer/Argun River’s annual flow into Dalai Lake, the canal puts both downstream ecosystems and communities in Russia and China in grave danger by making water – a scarce resource throughout the drought-prone region – even more difficult to come by. Also, the Argun River valley downstream from the canal is an important Ramsar-listed transboundary wetland that serves as critical habitat for endangered Eurasian waterfowl.

Although drought cycles are a natural occurrence at Dalai Lake, project developers claim the canal will stabilize the lake, and save it from drying up. While it is true that Dalai Lake has been shrinking for nearly a decade, the lake’s surface area is known to naturally fluctuate over time.

In fact, the actual intended beneficiaries of the water diversion scheme are major corporations like China Gold, who seek to pump water from the protected lake to support its nearby copper mine. The project promotes unsustainable water consumption and sets a dangerous precedent in Dauria.

Project documentation and regional media sources reveal that additional water projects to be built upstream in China include drinking water reservoirs, irrigation networks, and support for new power plants. These water projects would siphon off another 30% of the river’s annual flow, robbing the crucial wetlands downstream of their main tributary, potentially altering the natural border between Russia and China, and further diminishing the river for human communities.

“The Argun River is in urgent need of coordinated international effort to ensure that projects on this transboundary river allow for sufficient flow that can sustain the region’s floodplain wetlands and meet local community needs. Water infrastructure in the Argun River Basin should be kept to a minimum, and these most dangerous projects halted,” said Eugene Simonov, a rivers expert from the Rivers without Boundaries coalition, who has been working with the Russian-Chinese-Mongolian Dauria International Protected Area on this issue.

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Figure. 1. Hailaer River-Dalai Lake water transfer canal filled with water crossing the core zone of the Dalai Lake Biosphere Reserve. Satellite image from Spot 4 acquired on 29.08.09 (Transparent World, ScanEx, SpotImage, 2009)


Figure 2. Hailaer River-Dalai Lake water transfer canal before penetrating the Biosphere Reserve. Satellite image from Landsat 5 acquired on 12.08.09 (Transparent World, ScanEx, USGS, 2009)

For satellite monitoring see web-service

Rivers without Boundaries

Transparent World, NGO

Krasnoyarsk environmental NGO «Plotina»