Архив за месяц: Февраль 2011

Mongolian Court postponed hearings on «Rivers Union vs Government»

On February 16th 2001 only one of two appointed representatives of the Mongolian government: vice-minister of the Ministry of Nature, Environment and Tourism   Ch.Djargalsaikhan showed up in the court to face United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL).  The UMMRL requested to proceed despite absence of  the second representative from another ministry, but judges postponed hearings till March 15. The UMMRL held press-conference requested to hold next hearings on February 22 in a larger hall, so that all interested journalists and public could attend. They also hinted that currently appointed judges are influenced by the government and should be replaced. In October 2010, United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL) sued Government of Mongolia in the court of Sukhbaatar district of Ulaanbaatar city in order to get compensation of environmental damages in basins of Onggi, Zavkhan, Tuul, Khangiltsag, Khuder, Ulz, Yeroo and Gachuurt rivers.

Rivers without Boundaries.

Core group on pilot projects meets in Geneva

At the launch of the pilot projects during the workshop «How to adapt to climate change in transboundary basins», held in Geneva on 10-12 May 2010, it was decided to establish a core group composed of representatives of the pilot projects in order to exchange experience between the projects. On February 15-16, 2011 in UN Palace in Geneva was held the first meeting of this core group aimed to exchange information and experience on the activities, lessons learnt, challenges and success factors of the projects in the year 2010. The meeting also aimed to discuss ways and means for intensifying and continuing this exchange of experience through a web-based platform and other means. Finally, the meeting helped to prepare and design the next workshop on water and climate change, scheduled to take place back-to-back with the next meeting of the Water Convention’s Task Force on Water and Climate.

Dauria Going Dry  Project was represented by Natalia Kochneva of the Zabaikalsky Kray Ministry of Natural Resources.  Presentation on recent results in climate change analysis and monitoring look here.


Rivers without Boundaries comment on China Dialogue article

Saving Dalai Lake- response from Chinese coordinator for Rivers without Boundaries.

I am very pleased that issues in Argun-Erguna River basin has once again been brought to people’s attention, especially as this article has been reposted on over ten websites.(see chinadialogue.net)
Let me first introduce myself, and also correct a small error in the article. My name is Zhang Yadong, and I am in charge of Green Longjiang NGO while also being the Chinese coordinator for Rivers without Boundaries. This network is dedicated to calling for action to protect the health of transborder river basins in Northeast Eurasia, while also pushing for best practice in river management. It was launched by twenty groups and several experts, and people of any nationality are welcome to join.
The article «China’s great disappearing lake» is not long, but it combines the author’s own investigation and the results of much research into one. Starting with the protection of Dalai Lake, it moves on to touch on aspects such as the Dauria International Protected Area, the project to use river water to replenish the lake, the Erguna river, and industrial development. However, all these can actually be combined into one large problem- the crisis facing the wetlands in the mid to lower reaches of the Erguna River, roughly the «over 1500 square kilometres of river bank» along the «middle reaches of the Erguna river» mentioned by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Early Spring in  Huliyetu Wetlands Protected Area. Photo by Guo Yu Min.

These wetlands are a precious transborder ecosystem. 60-70% of the land is in China, where there are three protected areas- the Erguna Wetlands Protected Area, the Huliyetu Wetlands Protected Area, and the Erka Wetlands Protected Area. It is widely known that this is a bottleneck on the global bird migration route from east Asia to Australia- every year, around 2 million birds nest and breed here as they migrate. It is an important nesting ground for as many as 19 species of bird on the IUCN Red List, including internationally important numbers of swan geese, red-crowned cranes, white-naped cranes, red-necked stints, broad-billed sandpipers, bean geese, tundra swans, whooper swans, and gadwall.
Although it is one of China’s most important wetlands, its importance is not well known, and even fewer people know about the crisis it is facing. Just as deputy director of the Dalai Lake National Nature Reserve management bureau Liu Songtao said, the shrinking surface area of Dalai Lake is caused by drought. This is also the problem that has been facing wetlands in the entire mid to low reaches of the Erguna for the last 12 years.
However, research has shown that this kind of drought is part of a natural cycle. Of the many natural factors that moulded these wetlands, the natural alternation in climate between wet and dry and flooding of the river are the two most important. The complex natural climate cycle has given the freshwater nesting grounds running through this area complex changes between wet and dry. In wet periods, there are many lakes and shallow ponds around the mid to lower reaches of the Erguna which are the ideal nesting ground for most species of wild animal. In dry periods, most of these areas are no longer so hospitable, but the floodplain of the river still maintains a steady flow of water, providing a stable, though not ideal, nesting area. Wetlands in the floodplain rely on floodwater for their existence, and floodwater is different to changes in the water level of the lake. In drought years, flooding will still happen often; the wet/dry cycle is a long one, but floodwater is more irregular. Specifically, the area of Dalai Lake has shrunk and regrown many times with the natural cycle of wet and dry, but flooding on differing scales happens in the mid to lower reaches of the Erguna nearly every year.
A healthy ecosystem is a fluid balance: life must adapt to these changes in order to survive, and the ancient Mongolian people are no exception. But now, much societal and economic behaviour not only not adapting to the environment, but going in completely the other direction. Water development and diversion projects dramatically destroy this fluid balance in a short space of time, with serious and irreversible effect; industries with a high demand for water, such as mining, petroleum, and coal power, do not consider adapting to the local environment and climate but rather let the chase for short term profit take precedence over the long term environmental costs.

by chinadialogue.net

«Dauria Going Dry» pilot project

Dauria project is one of  8 members of UNECE Water Convention pilot project on adaptation to climate change in transboundary basins.See review of all projects:core_group_overview_pilot-projects_progress_final.pdf

Adaptation to climate change in transboundary headwaters of the Amur River Basin 

Background: of the project.

Dauria wetlands support globally significant populations of at least 20 bird species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, including the Red-crowned Crane, and resting and feeding areas for several million migratory waterbirds. Indigenous 30-year climate cycle effectively drives dynamics of Dauria ecosystems, but multiple manifestations of global climate change are also very evident there. Recent rapid socio-economic changes and loss of nomadic heritage in Dauria Steppe  makes ecosystems and local communities less resilient to naturally fluctuating resources and to droughts and floods made more extreme through climate change. Drastically different cultures, population density and mode of economic development and water use in Russia, China and Mongolia, make it very difficult to build transboundary mechanism to protect common water resources. Meanwhile risks for wetland ecosystems and dependent population  are further exacerbated by recent  proposals for several inter-basin water transfer projects in the Argun River basin in China and Mongolia.

Dauria International Protected Area (DIPA) was created by Mongolia, China and Russia in 1994 to protect and study ecosystems of the region. All three countries also have bilateral agreements on transboundary waters, which lack clear mutual obligations. Increasingly altered by human activities Argun River basin with Dalai Lake and still relatively pristine Uldz River basin with Torey lakes form a great comparative pair for a study on transboundary water management options and climate adaptation in Amur River Headwaters.

The project coalition led by Daursky Biosphere (representing DIPA) and WWF Russia is aiming to harmonize transboundary river protection and management in Dauria -by

1.        -Strategic assessment of river management options in the light of climate adaptation

2.        -Establishing wetland monitoring system  in both Argun and Uldz basins

3.        -Enhancement of protected areas network as one of key adaptation measures —

4.        -Awareness raising program program on climate adaptation in transboundary Dauria.

The project seeks to develop and promote science-based adaptation measures to complex cycling climate of Dauria region, which is severely affected by global warming. The project addresses domestic and international policy-making, as well as selected conservation and monitoring practices in the field. We also seek to create a platform for scientists from interested countries to advance understanding of dynamics in Dauria ecosystems under climatic and anthropogenic influences.

In 2010 the project formed partnerships with Administration of Zabaikalsky Province, International Crane Foundation, East Asian-Australasian flyway Partnership, Rivers without Boundaries Coalition, Institute of Natural Resources and Cryology of Russian Academy of Sciences, and a number of Mongolian and Chinese NGOs and researchers. Some project activities were granted support in 2011 from UNDP\GEF «Russian Steppe Conservation» Project administered by the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources.

Achievements in 2010:

1) Analysis of climate change influence on hydrology in Argun , Onon and Ulz River basins has been started based on hydro meteorological data, remote sensing data and field observations. Data on Torey lakes water regime, area and shape dynamics were derived from satellite imagery, Torey lakes water balance calculated for 1960-2009. WWF Mongolia contributed study on climate change projections in Dauria for 2020, 2050 and 2080 determined by models HADLEY and ECHAM and possible consequences for 3 transboundary rivers (Khakh, Kherlen and Onon).

2) Data collected on habitat and biota conditions on key water courses and water bodies during the dry phase of climate cycle.

3) Analyzed datasets on  multi-year observations of wetland plant communities succession, abundance and breeding success of waterbirds, etc.

4) Development most of information base necessary to determine parameters of environmental flows on transboundary watercourses. Collected most relevant case-studies and methodologies from dryland rivers of the world (e.g. Australia, US, etc);

5) Developed monitoring system and established 3 field monitoring transects with more than 100 standard observation plots, which allow to discern changes in stream flow, water surface, plant communities succession under climatic fluctuations. Agreed with DIPA partners on transboundary monitoring effort.

6) Started establishment of International Bird Observatory: agreed on common monitoring protocols, developed network of observation points for bird migration and nesting periods.

7) Delivered Project-related reports at 3 international conferences and published 5 short papers.

8)  Sustained collection and dissemination of  project -related information via  English and Russian -language web-sites: www.arguncrisis.ru, www.dauriarivers.org (web-site in Chinese under construction).

Lessons learned  that could be of use for the other projects

—          Natural climate fluctuations indigenous to the area may mask presence of linear climate change

—          Change in water temperature may affect river ecosystems earlier than change in flow volume ( loss of habitat of native species and invasions of exotics)

—          Poorly planned human activities  initiated in anticipation of climate change (including some adaptation measures) may drastically hurt ecosystem much earlier and more severe than consequences of actual global climate change

—          Riverine wetland conservation is an essential component in any basin-wide adaptation Progamme and should first of all focus on protecting natural refugia during most unfavorable climate conditions and sustaining environmental flows.


Dr.V.Kiriliuk, Daruasky Biosphere reserve (DIPA) vkiriliuk@bk.ru

Natalia Kochneva, Ministry of natural resources and ecology of Zabaikalsky kray. natashakochneva@gmail.com

Dr. E.Simonov, Consulant to WWF Amur Programme,


Radioactive Heaven at the transboundary Argun River

 According to annual review of uranium mining issues at www.wise-uranium.org , a court in Zabaikalsky Province, Russia ordered the Krasnokamensk uranium mill to stop local lake pollution. Due to insufficient waste water treatment capacity, the concentrations of zinc, phosphate, phenol, oil products, iron, magnesium, sulphates, nitrates and several other dangerous admixtures exceed the permissible standards. Russian sources also say that prosecutor’s office in  March 2010  requested that Priargunsky uranium mill stop pollution of Umekei Lakes, which were contaminated with high concentrations of many substances, including uranium.In May 2010  Fisheries council of Zabaikalsky Province decided to commission a study on edibility of fish from Umekei Lakes.  Study results not found in open sources. In October 2010  Krasnokamensk court ruled that Priargunsky uranium mill should repair and expand its waste water treatment facility before 2013. This 40-year old uranium mine just 40 kilometers off the banks of Argun River is the largest in Russia.  the  mine produces around 90% of Russia’s total output, and almost 10% of world production. In addition to uranium, molybdenum, manganese and brown coal are also mined close to the town, with associated chemical plants producing sulphuric acid and lubricants. After a steady decline in production in the late 20 th century, Russia wants to double uranium production from  2,200-2,500 tones to 4,000-4,500 tones and opens new mines in the area. According  to wikipedia, Krasnokamensk has generated fifty to seventy-five million tons of tailings, making it the largest waste stream at a uranium production site in the world. In recent years, the dangerously high levels of radioactivity have seen a number of the town’s districts near the tailing dumps, such as the settlement Oktyabrsky, being targeted by Rosatom for  resettlement closer to the town center.In recent years no one conducted  independent environmental impact assessments  and the state-owned media promote Krasnokamensk as «clean and burgeoning city». However in the era glasnost in the 1990s inspections conducted by Greenpeace, Earth Island Institute and independent researchers concluded that  the site has numerous environmental hazards typical of uranium mines and mills.Even the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy in 1995 at Parliamentary hearings stated that  in Krasnokamensk: «Radiation contamination affects the soil, vegetation, ground and surface water, and the air. The main sources of radioactive contamination are: the open pit, mine waters, tailing ponds, open ore storages, low-grade ore piles, and the power station. Environmental pollution is a result of releases of radioactive gases, aerosols and dust particles to the atmosphere, spread of radioactive particles by wind and their subsequent atmospheric precipitation, releases of mine waters to the surface, and leaks from the tailing ponds.»Given that radioactive tailings  are stored here at a scale hardly seen anywhere else in the world, we must note that the facility has certain degree of environmental control, but still poses tremendous potential threat to the region  in a long term.  According to the 2006 Report by Economic Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States a terrorist attack or catastrophic flood (presumably on Urulungui river) may result not only in tragic consequences for Krasnokamensk city, but for the most of Argun River watershed.