Архив за месяц: Декабрь 2009

Good science used to mislead policy- probably, without intention

With great surprise we read “Global Anvironmental Alert” on UNEP side, that attributed  falling levels of Dalai Lake to dams on tributaries, while all lakes of Dauria do so due to natural climate cycle…State-of-the-art radar altimetry is demonstrated to support this claim.We had no choice, but to address the authors of this misleading article in a special letter and will inform our readers as we recieve responce:

Sir or Madam:

I am writing on behalf of  «Rivers without Boundaries» Coalition regarding material  on Lake Hulun Hu water level posted on Your GEAS web-site for 16-31 December 2009. http://na.unep.net/geas/archive/Dec16-31_09.html#realtime

We are very worried  that information you provided, although factually almost correct, may in fact reinforce unsound water management practices in China and lead to further continuation of  environmental crisis on Sino-Russian transboundary Argun River.

Lake Hulun (Dalai Lake) experiences regular fluctuations in its surface area based on climatic variations and historically was reduced to a chain of shallow pools around 1900. there are NO dams so far on Orshun and Kherlen  rivers which are principal tributaries to the lake. Lake level fluctuation is cyclical. Actual drop in Dalai Lake since the  end 1999 is about 4,5 meters.

Similar Barun Torey Lake in adjacent Daursky Biosphere Reserve in Russia completely dried up this June as it does every 30 years or so. Both lakes are UNESCO Biosphere reserves parts of trilateral Dauria International Protected Area (DIPA) and thus governments pledged to sustain their natural dynamics. More in the report at the 2009 Conservation Congress in Beijing. http://www.dauriarivers.org/documents/conservation-and-climate-cycles/

However a canal has been  built in 2009 to divert water from the Hailaer/Argun River to Hulun- Dalai Lake to sustain its level, i.e. transform it into reservoir . The diverted water will flow into the lake and will also supply the needs of Manzhouli City — a major border crossing hub — and be used for irrigation and agricultural needs. This canal is designed to divert annually 30%, or approximately 1 km?, of the river’s already dwindling flow per year. The Chinese Water Ministry also calls for the construction of several multi-purpose water reservoirs upstream from the canal on Hailaer River tributaries that could divert up to 1.4 km? more water. Right now this is a subject of debate between Russian Government, IUCN, and Ramsar Secretariat on one side and Chinese authorities on the other side. Our international coalition sustains websites in English (http://www.dauriarivers.org/), Russian and Chinese to inform the public about the issue.  We push governments to negotiate agreeable environmental flow regimes for Argun River and Dalai Lake to keep their dynamic ecosystems alive.

Considerations that Chinese officials puts forward advocating this water transfer are very similar to ones implicitly stated in Your small report. Therefore your de-facto report reinforces desire of China Water Ministry to regulate natural lake dynamics with lots of infrastructure and damage another globally important wetland ( see http://www.dauriarivers.org/argun-river-is-a-threatened-globally-important-site-of-cranes-geese-swans-and-other-birds/  ). We will not be surprised to hear form China Water Ministry tomorrow that UN institutions , namely UNEP/GRID, back their decision with high-tech scientific evidence in recent Environmental Alert….

We fully understand that  You, probably, did not have such intention, and suggest to bring full story on Hulun lake and Argun River dynamics to your broad audience.

Please do not hesitate to use real-time monitoring of transfer canal construction presented at http://gis.transparentworld.ru/argun/ and our diverse materials on http://www.dauriarivers.org/. If you wish we could cooperate with you on preparation of a solid «alert» on this issue.

Waiting for Your response


Eugene Simonov.


Rivers without Boundaries

Khalkhin-Gol –lessons for the future from conflict of the past

 As new water conflict unfolds in Dauria we should look into history of wars of the past among which there was the «Khalkhin-Gol Battle» that wrote the name of this part of Argun River Basin into the history of the world. The river is also presently known under shorter Mongolian name «Khalkh» and   Chinese name «Halaha» and it still is the main source of water for both Buir and Dalai lakes. An article by Uradyn E. Bulag » The Nomonhan Incident and the Politics of Friendship on the Russia-Mongolia-China Border» shows that conflict from completely new side, very relevant to contemporary competition for resources in Dauria: Читать далее

High cost of correcting mistakes of the past

 News from Mongolian Union of Rivers and Lakes Movements

Following the passing of the law «to prohibit mining operations at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoir and forested areas», the 50th Parliamentary resolution was developed. The River Movements sent official documents regarding its implementation to the Prime Minister S. Batbold.

That is why, at Mr. S. Batbold’s request, on December 25th, the Minister of Nature, Environment and Tourism, as well as the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and other government officials answered questions regarding this issue before the Parliament.

Some Parliament Members were highly critical towards the implementation work, arguing that it was being too slow and that almost half a year had gone since the law was passed in the Parliament.

According to the preliminary study of the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy,    1115 licenses (among which 901 are exploration licenses and 214 are mining ones) will be revoked by the law and 150 billion USD will be spent on reparations.

As of today, the procedure of delineating the boundaries that fall under the jurisdiction of the law is an ongoing process. Boundaries are being determined by soum governors for rivers and forests located in their soums. Between the end of November and December 25th, the River Movements worked in their own countryside to help in this process. They have collaborated with local people to urge their respective local governors to set up the boundaries at least 500 to 1000m away from river beds.

YABLOKO’s leader speaks on Argun in Cairo

On December 7, 2009, YABLOKO’s leader Sergei Mitrokhin opened international conference Conceptualising Global Democracy conducted within the framework of Building Global Democracy Programme.

Scholars, politicians and officials from over 60 countries of all the regions of the world participating in the conference will discuss the prospects of democracy in a changing more global world.

The honour to open a discussion was granted to YABLOKO’s leader Sergei Mitrokhin who was a discussant of the report Re-conceptualize Global Democracy from the Perspective of Chinese Culture made by Chinese scholars.

Sergei Mitrokhin marked a similarity of Russia’s and China’s problems. «In my opinion the authors are overestimating the national specifics and underestimate common democratic values. We can observe the same thing in Russia at present. The idea of a «sovereign democracy» has been actively promoted by the Russian authorities. It implies abolishing of democratic norms and values (that we have being observing) under the pretext of «Russia’s national specifics» or a «specific Russian way towards democracy».

«In our country this approach serves so that to justify multiple violations of basic democratic rules and procedures, election fraud, total dependency of the judicial authority on the executive authority, negligence of the parliament and reduction of its powers and uncontrolled powerful bureaucracy,» Mitrokhin said…..

Stating that non-observance of basic democratic norms leads to problems in the inter-state relations, Sergei Mitrokhin gave an example of environmental problems in the Russian regions bordering on China. «The industrial development of China led to pollution of the environment making China one of the most environmentally unfriendly countries. The government tried to conceal the scope of the problems, however, sometimes the data on pollution do come out», he said.

In particular, YABLOKO’s leader noted that the problem of pollution of the Amur river via its largest afflux — the Songhua river, which flows through Chinese territory. Also unlawful use of common water resources creates huge problems for Russia and Kazakhstan. In violation of international rules without any negotiations with other interested states, China began taking water for its irrigation purposes from the upper Irtysh (the so-called Black Irtysh), depriving the bordering territories of the RF and Kazakhstan of water resources. Also due to unrestricted Chinese consumption of half of waters of the Argun river which is one of the feeders of the Amur river, the whole Baikal region may turn into a semi-desert out of steppe.

Waiting for Gazelle Invasion

 More and more attention of Russian conservationists is required by migrating Mongolian Gazelle, that more and more frequently crosses Mongolian-Russian border in our study region.  In mid-November 2009 10 000 gazelle crossed the border in a place without fence west of Daursky Biosphere Reserve and 10 days stayed in reserve’s buffer zone, protected by rangers. When they retreated to Mongolia we sent small surveillance team, that recorded up to 50 000 thousand animals within  2 day migration time from the border fence. 

            This means that by beginning of January, after the mating period, up to 200 000 animals will be ready to march northwards towards us. Narrow zone with thin snow cover and abundant grass favorable for gazelle still exists in Mongolia, but likely it  is not sufficient to sustain most herds throughout the winter. Weather change may trigger massive northward migration. In spring 2008  such migration lead to death of 700 animals on barbwire fences, and Daursky had to negotiate unprecedented opening of border fences to avoid further massacre.  Right now we have over 3000 gazelle in Daursky Biosphere Reserve, it vicinity and planned «Gazelle Valley» National Wildlife Refuge, but there is plenty of room and food for additional animals. Two questions are critical — whether authorities agree to make opening in the fences again and who will supply resources and manpower to ensure anti-poaching patrolling of large are with gazelle herds. Below see picture of gazelle at boundary fence taken  by Vadim Kiriliuk(DIPA)


Founding of the Amur-Okhotsk Consortium

An international symposium on «Environmental Conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk: Cooperation between Japan, China and Russia» was held on 7-8 November as part of the Hokkaido University Sustainability Weeks 2009. Led by the Pan-Okhotsk Research Center, Institute of Low Temperature Science at Hokkaido University, the symposium was organized in cooperation with several institutions including the Slavic Research Center . International conferences on the theme of environmental preservation and conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk have been held since 2006 on a bilateral basis such as between Japan and Russia, or Japan and China*2 . However, what made this international symposium groundbreaking was the participation of researchers from three countries including Japan, Russia and China. Furthermore, the biggest achievement was the founding of the Amur-Okhotsk Consortium, an international network of scientists for intensive discussion on the future of the sustainable development in Amur-Okhotsk Region following the drawing up of a joint declaration.Some of the speakers presented their findings based on the results of research conducted at the Institute of Low Temperature Science and the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature which clearly took into serious consideration and identified the significant role of the Sea of Okhotsk on fishery catches in the Pacific Ocean. Furthermore, several works revealed the critical function of the inflow from the Amur to the Sea of Okhotsk while some emphasized that the relation between the Sea of Okhotsk and Amur River should be called as «the giant fish breeding forest» and preserved as a whole or as one system.

Other participants pointed that such kind of remarkable research and investigation have developed in line with the collaboration between Japan and Russia, China and Russia, and Japan and China, which is a result of the end of the Cold War and of the resolution of border conflicts between China and Russia. The establishment of the consortium owes much to this improvement in international relations.

The «Joint Declaration by Researchers toward Environmental Conservation of the Sea of Okhotsk and Surrounding Regions» that has been adopted at the symposium includes the following main points: (1) consortium meeting should be conducted once every 2 years to exchange opinion and information; (2) while this marks the first meeting of such kind, the second meeting will be held in 2011 in Sapporo; (3) the provisional secretariat should be established at the Pan-Okhotsk Research Center, Institute of Low Temperature Science; (4) the provisional secretaries appointed are Naoto Ebuchi (Institute of Low Temperature Science), Peter Baklanov (Pacific Institute of Geography of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences), and Da Zhigang (Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences). This groundbreaking symposium will become a historical benchmark for the development of research regarding environmental conservation of Pan-Okhotsk Region.

Professor Shinichiro Tabata

Slavic Research Center  

Hokkaido University