Kherlen River discussed at the Second meeting of the Amur-Okhotsk Consortium


The 2nd International Meeting of Amur-Okhotsk Consortium was held on November 5 and 6, 2011, in Sapporo, Japan, as a program in Hokkaido University Sustainable Weeks 2011. The Consortium was formed as a result of very innovative Amur-Okhotsk Project that explored contribution of Amur River outflow to sustaining fisheries of the Sea of Okhotsk.

This is the 2nd international meeting of this consortium. The objective of this meeting was to discuss how to preserve the shared heritage of cross-border environment, and how to pass it on to the next generation by academic perspectives with the participation of general public and students. The first time Mongolian hydrologists came to this event and reported on peculiar natural features of Kherlen River and associated socio-economic and environmental problems.(SEE ABSTRACTS)

Presenting Kherlen River issues in Japan is very  important given that controversial Kherlen -Gobi  Water Transfer Project was designed with participation of Japanese CTI Engineering International Co and further Japanese involvement in the project is quite likely.

Kherlen River at the site of planned project ( RwB 2011 expedition photo)


The Amur-Okhotsk Consortium is a multilateral researchers’ network to promote the sharing of information on environments, to make efforts toward a cooperative environmental monitoring, and to facilitate the robust discussions that transcends borders toward an environmental conservation and sustainable use of the resources of the Amur River Basin and the Sea of Okhotsk. It is a platform to discuss issues grounded on scientific knowledge for the purpose of sharing a common recognition through the exchange of opinion and discussions on the natural environment of the Sea of Okhotsk and the Amur River Basin. This network is a non-governmental network and has not been founded on or by any particular country or organization. This is a personal network comprised of voluntarily participating researchers who share a common awareness and for the possibility of a free discussion by researchers on the future of the ecosystem of the Amur-Okhotsk. The activities of Amur-Okhotsk Consortium will be financially supported for 3 years starting from 2011 by 3 year grant by Mitsui & Co., Ltd. Environment Fund. In this year, the first year of this funding, the 2nd International Meeting of Amur-Okhotsk Consortium is held. In 2012, the second year of the grant, an environmental monitoring program in the Amur River with researchers from Russia, China, Mongolia, and Japan is planned. And in 2013, the final year of the grant, the 3rd International Meeting of Amur-Okhotsk Consortium will be held in Sapporo, again. This will be the final stage run by Japanese secretariat, and will be successfully turned over to the next secretariat.

Sources:  Amur-Okhotsk Consortium web-site, RwB own info.

China says no Brahmaputra diversion — is there hope for Argun and Amur?

Argun, Shilka and Amur river ecosystems- are all threatened by water infrastructure planned or already built by China. China still refuses to discuss with Russia agreement on environmental flow on Argun River, that may soften impacts of Hailaer-Dalai massive water diversion. State-owned Yangtze Power Co. together with En+Company propose to dam Shilka River near its mouth. And all Chinese national development plans still have 3 to 9 most dangerous dams on the Amur River transboundary channel. However RwB must acknowledge that Chinese policies on transboundary rivers gradually become more open and this great country becomes somewhat more sensitive to concerns of its neighbors. But to be heard these concerns should be voiced loudly and at the high level of political pyramid. India has been very edgy ever since reports that China meant to divert the waters of Bhramaputra river towards the parched provinces in the north-east, or even Xinjiang in the north-west. Brahmaputra River diversion story told by The «Times of India»  is very far from the happy end, but offers some hope for the future. RwB

Indrani Bagchi, Oct 14, 2011

In a rare admission which will be welcomed in India, China has stated that it will not divert the Brahmaputra river.Jiao Yong, vice minister at China’s ministry of water resources, told a press conference in Beijing on Wednesday that although there is a demand among Chinese to make greater use of the Yarlung Tsangpo (Tibetan name for the Brahmaputra), «considering the technical difficulties, the actual need of diversion and the possible impact on the environment and state-to-state relations, the Chinese government has no plan to conduct any diversification project in this river».

This is the first time that China has acknowledged that anything that spoils relations with India over the Brahmaputra does not serve any interests.

The official clarification will be a relief to the Indian government, which has repeatedly harangued the Chinese side on the proposed diversification project. Returning from the UN General Assembly on September 27, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists, «I have myself raised this issue with both the President as well as the Prime Minister of China on a number of occasions. They have assured us that they are not doing anything which will be detrimental to the interests of India.»

Indian and Chinese experts discussed the fate of trans-border rivers as recently as May 2011 in Beijing. The Chinese statement will go a fair distance in removing a growing irritant between India and China. India has been very edgy ever since reports that China meant to divert the waters of this mighty river towards the parched provinces in the north-east, or even Xinjiang in the north-west.

The idea was first raised in a provocatively titled book, ‘Tibet’s water will save China’, by two retired PLA commanders, Gao Kai and Li Ling.

Independent hydro-experts have also suggested that it would be an almost impossible technical feat to divert the Brahmaputra. After alleged misadventures on the Three Gorges Dam and Mekong river in southeast Asia, there is less of an appetite to venture into a project that could prove to be very risky.

However, the diversification project is distinct from the dams that China has started to build on the Brahmaputra. While there is some consternation on that in India, China has clarified that these are run-of-the-river projects. India is not protesting too much here because these are the kind of dam projects India is building on the Indus rivers that India shares with Pakistan. China is believed be building six dams — Lengda, Zhongda, Langzhen, Jiexu, Jiacha and Zangmu.

In November 2006, on the eve of Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit to India, Chinese water resources Wang Shucheng was quoted as saying that the diversion proposal was «unnecessary, unfeasible and unscientific. There is no need for such dramatic and unscientific projects.» But that did not assuage Indian concerns.

China expert Claude Arpi says, «If a river water treaty could be signed between India and Pakistan in the early sixties, why can’t a similar agreement be made between China, India and Bangladesh?»

Times of India

President of the Mongolia Mining Assossiation Criticizes New Law

After the 14 th North America-Mongolia Business Council Conference  D.Ganbold, President of the Mongolian National Mining Association, discussed with journalists the Government of Mongolia have budget to compensate over 1000 mining exploration companies?Q: Your presentation at the North America-Mongolia Business Council conference was interesting and in the presentation, you made analysis on the amendments in four laws that affected mining industry. What were the main obstacles or advantages of these amendments?D.Ganbold: There are better and worse provisions in the mining law amendments in relationship with the OT IA(Oyu Tolgoi Implementation Agreement-ed.). The repeal of WFP (windfall profit) tax is the biggest gain of these changes. Also some laws such as «Law on prohibiting exploration and mining minerals from river source protected water and forest reservoir areas» and «Law on Nuclear Energy» will bring more problems in the future. «Law on Nuclear Energy» breaches many domestic laws and also international laws, agreements, even the Constitution of Mongolia. Upon approval of this law, interest of mining many companies and their investors is under risk. Share is private property. It is regretful that the Government of Mongolia stated to own this property free. Also the law was adopted to divide authorities of state registration and cadastre. These provisions are impossible for the professional operations many disputes are awaiting in relationship with this provision. Also it failed to state the solution to probable disputes.

Q: When drafting these laws, did lawmakers receive comments from you and professionals?

D.Ganbold: As for «Law on prohibiting exploration and mining minerals from river source protected water and forest reservoir areas» and «Law on Nuclear Energy», we made neither single comments nor a second of time to comment. Minister D.Zorigt is working very closely with mining NGOs and private sector. But as for these laws, they were carved without professional touches or comments.

Q: Lawmakers believe that «Law on prohibiting exploration and mining minerals from river source protected water and forest reservoir areas» will become impetus in the protection of environment. But you see it as negative.

D.Ganbold: It will not protect the environment; actually it will bring negative impacts. When the law was developed, it would affect over 200 licenses, but now this number is increased by 4-5 times. If the exploration licenses of these companies were cancelled accruing to a new law, the Government shall compensate these companies, according to the Mineral Law of Mongolia. But does Government of Mongolia have such a huge amount of money? Let’s take one example, there is a calculation that «Monpolimet» company, which faces the risk of losing its license, spent 50 million US$, also «Erdes Holding» LLC, iron ore mining company, spent 20 million US$, respectively. It is excluding exploration expense. Compensation risk of only two of a thousand would reach over 100 billion MNT.

Actually, exploration expense is the risk of license holding company. But now the Government would pay the payment. Actually, confiscated licensed areas will become the prey of «ninjas», unofficial name of artisan miners. Wouldn’t it affect the environment?

Wednesday, 02 Nov 2011

RwB would dare to ask the President: «If not a single comment was made by miners who in spring 2011 proposed amendments making the Law practically useless?  Coalition members had to spend a lot of energy to prevent them from being passed, so we would really like to know who authored them»

«Rivers without Boundaries» Registered !

sertifikat.jpgGood News!Thanks to restless efforts of Ganbold — RwB Coordinator in Mongolia, Rivers without Boundaries  International Coalition  became a registered NGO in Mongolia.

Such registration ( that would be almost impossible in China and  painfully difficult in Russia) allows the Coalition greater flexibility and provides additional opportunities in advocacy and fund-raising.   However this move by no means  changes the general RwB policy to work as a network of NGOs, activists and experts and not just as an independent NGO. Thus in Mongolia RwB presently closely cooperates with Onon-Ulz River Movement, United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes, «Let’s Save the Tuul River!» National Movement, Mongolian Nature Protection Civil Movements Coalition, Khentii, Onon Protection Movement, etc. Current focus in Mongolia — implementation of the «Law with long Name» and controlling placer gold mining on transboundary rivers of  Eastern Mongolia.  But  also in future  RwB  in Mongolia plans  to assess new hydropower and water diversion schemes,  engage in basin-wide management planning in transboundary river basins ,  look into water-related impacts of large investment projects,  re-examine and support improvement of the  National Water Program.







Activists rally to stop destruction of Onon River headwaters


Participants of Mongolian-Russain talks on transboundary waters held in Ulaan Baatar on October 27  were addressed by environmental NGO activists urging both countries to talk less and do more to stop destructive mining activities on transboundary rivers: Onon, Selenga, Uldz, etc.» Rivers in the sacred land of Chinggis Khaan should be clean!» read one of the slogans.

In particular activists demand that Russian side stops gold mining enterprise»Baldzha» that has already destroyed riverine habitats on a dozen transboundary tributaries of Onon River Basin. For last two years  placer gold  mining operations of  «Baldzha» caused continuous pollution of transboundary  Ashinga river , but instead of  shutting down this enterprise Russian authorities granted to  «Baldzha» a permit to  destroy larger and more ecologically  important  transboundary Kirkun River .


Ganbold, RwB Coordinator in Mongolia, proposed that »  Mining on Kirkun River  should be stopped as a first step of freeing Russian portion of Onon Basin from destructive activities incompatible with sustainable development in this motherland of Chinggis Khaan. In Mongolia such activities should be stopped according to the 2009 Law on “Prohibiting mining operations at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoirs and forested areas”» and we urge the Mongolian government to implement it as soon as possible».


Rivers without Boundaries

Ulaan Baatar

New victim of herders vs miners conflict

An ethnic Mongolian herder has been killed in China in circumstances similar to an incident in May which led to protests in the region, reports say.A human rights group said the herder had been trying to protect grazing land from Chinese oil trucks in Inner Mongolia when he was knocked down.

Chinese authorities said he had tried to overtake a truck on a motorcycle.

Thousands of ethnic Mongolians staged angry protests in May after a similar incident.

A herder named Mergen was killed on 10 May as he tried to stop a coal truck driving over pasture land.

His death led to a series of demonstrations in towns and cities across Inner Mongolia which the security forces acted quickly to put down. The truck driver who hit him was executed in August.

Following  protests, authorities in Inner Mongolia announced plans to review local coal mining activities.

The latest incident occurred on Thursday in Uushin Banner district, near the city of Ordos, the US-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Centre reports.

The herder, named Zorigt, was one of several who had been trying to protect their land «from unregulated Chinese oil and gas transport trucks that drive roughshod through their grazing lands and kill livestock», the group said.

The local government said in a statement on its website that he had been killed while trying to overtake the truck on a motorcycle.

The driver had been taken into custody, it added.

The region has traditionally been home to nomadic Mongolian herders, but has seen an influx of companies keen to exploit the region’s resources.

Source BBC

Supreme Court of Mongolia : Government found guilty ! But now activists need legal assistance


In October, 2010 the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes sued the Government of Mongolia in the Mongolian Supreme Court for improper implementation of the 2009 Law on «Prohibiting mining operations at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoirs and forested areas»  which publicly known  as «the Law with  long name».

NGO appeal has trickled down to district court and then rejected by several courts but NGOs were insistent and never gave up.

Finally on Fri Oct 21, 2011 Mongolia’s Supreme Court has ordered the government to enforce a ban on mining in river and forest areas following an appeal submitted by activists who said the country’s fragile environment was threatened by reckless mining.

The court ruling on Thursday explicitly blamed the government for failing to implement a 2009 law banning all mining in river basins and forests. The Mongolian government is constitutionally obliged to ensure that the country’s environment is protected, but activists claim that dozens of rivers and lakes have dried up in the last two decades as a direct result of mining-friendly, laissez-faire legislation.

«The law was made to crack down on the negative results of gold mining mania — hundreds of rivers and thousands of hectares of forests have disappeared just for few kilos of gold,» said Bayarsaikhan Garidkhuu, one of the lawmakers who drew up the original legislation.

While a small number of mines have been shut down as a result of the ban, many more have continued to operate, with the government saying it was unable to afford compensation to the owners for closing them down. But Bayarsaikhan rejected the argument, saying that the damage done to Mongolia’s ecosystem far outweighed the compensation costs. «We have to discuss it seriously,» he said. «Even if we give them compensation, they have to pay for the damage they have done.»

The decision was a victory for Tsetsgee Munkhbayar, an activist with the United Movement of Rivers and Lakes, who submitted the appeal to the Supreme Court after seeing his case dismissed by district and city courts.

«We are 100-percent confident that the fight is really the right thing so we have been fighting for one whole year at all levels of courts — the Supreme Court is the final court so the government is obliged to enforce the law,» Munkhbayar said.

However activists Munkhbayr, Bayraa, Sambuu-Yondon and Tumurbaatar now are being brought to court by the government. In last fall and spring the Movement made largely successful attempt to prevent new Law on limiting mining in sensitive areas from being amended to the point of uselessness (see proposed amendments here). Since September 2010 they engaged into various «citizen enforcement» activities and finally seven of them were arrested and jailed, then temporarily released and 4 people now await trial. (See collection of reports here ) Prosecutor’s office of Ulaanbaatar is bringing a criminal case against these people under accusation for damaging other’s property (mining equipment), arrogant behavior and racket.

The Mongolian law enforcement is pursuing this case protecting the interests of mining companies. However, responses received from them also indicate that there is political decision to prosecute or at least keep the ax hanging over their heads for as long as it is possible. NGOs approached the Supreme Court, Prosecutor General and executive government (PM) to review the facts that some of these environmental activists have initially been arrested without arrest warrants; that they have been detained for several days without access to lawyers and that their equipment and all films documenting all illegal actions of mining companies have been arrested and/or destroyed. All authorities repeat in same language that our allegations have not been confirmed.

The trial may start as early as November  and given seriousness of accusations it could lead to imprisonment of several activists. However the case is very far from being hopeless and there is a lot of useful clauses in Mongolian Law that could be used by skillful lawyers. However only one lawyer is presently serving 4 would be convicts. Although, skillful  lawyer, Dashdemberel who  just won the above-mentioned famous case «Rivers vs Mongolian Government),  has severely overstretched capacity standing alone against the legal machine of the government and the mining lobby behind it. Besides he is constantly threatened by police and prosecutors (in summer he already have spent 30 days in jail). Part of the problem is that the Movement currently lacks funds to hire additional lawyers to defend the activists for all resources have been spent on civil enforcement of the Law with Long Name and participation in a lwsuit against the government.

If Goldman prize winner Munkhbayar and 3 other key members of the Movement  would go to jail, the ability of remaining members to continue civil enforcement of the Law with Long Name will be severely diminished. On the other hand after Government  recognized guilty by the Supreme Court decision  any attempt to send to jail Munkhbayar and others may evoke a wave of public protest, especially now right before parliament elections. So there is slight hope that prosecutors will be wise enough to drop the case and the Government wise enough to concentrate on implementing the Law and not on scapegoating civil activists. However we still should prepare for the worst case — defending innocent people in a long pointless trial.

We urge you to use whatever means available to help to protect river defenders from prosecution. You can directly address UMMRL Council at

Rivers without Boundaries

(Sources: Reuters, UMMRL and own sources)

Argun and Amur in the UN’s Second Assessment of Transboundary Rivers

The Second Assessment provides a comprehensive overview of the status of transboundary waters in the European and some Asian parts of the UNECE region, covering more than 140 transboundary rivers, 25 transboundary lakes, about 200 transboundary groundwater aquifers and 25 Ramsar Sites or other wetlands of transboundary importance.

It has been carried out under the auspices of the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes with involvement of more than 250 experts.

Utilizing data and information provided by national Governments and river commissions, maps, graphs and statistical data, the Second Assessment presents a broad analysis of transboundary water resources, pressure factors, quantity and quality status, and transboundary impacts, as well as responses and future trends. It also documents national and transboundary legal and institutional frameworks for water management and cooperation. The Second Assessment seeks to provide a picture of the expected impacts on transboundary water resources, including the measures planned or in place to adapt to climate change.

Danube River Basin (annual flow 210 cubic kilometers, area 0.8 million square kilometers, human population about 80 million) is a champion of the assessment occupying 70 pages, while Amur River Basin (annual flow 360 cubic kilometers, area 2.1 million square kilometers, human population about 85 million) takes only 5 pages and did not deserve proper incorporation into sub-regional overviews. Besides, the source of the Amur, transboundary Onon River shared by Mongolia and Russia is not even mentioned in the 2nd Assessment.

Nevertheless Amur and Argun rivers proudly occupy Chapter 2 (in Part IV) in English and in Russian. Although this section is way too concise for the biggest transboundary river course under the Convention’s jurisdiction, it still provides overview of existing basin-management problems. Two-page overview of Dauria’s Ramsar wetlands prepared by DIPA experts supplement essential information on biodiversity, climate cycle and threats to natural ecosystems of the area.

The Second assessment highlights common transboundary problems in river basins shared by UNECE countries and their Asian neighbors in Ili, Irtysh, Selenga and Amur river basins and thus calls for special cooperative measures to invovle China and Mongolia. And we cannot agree more that they are urgently needed!

Download the full Second Assessment in English [43 MB] in Russian [46 MB]

Download the  text on Amur and Argun rivers represented in Part IV, Chapter 2 in English or in Russian

Water As A New Weapon

China has aroused international alarm by using its virtual monopoly of rare earths as a trade instrument and by stalling multilateral efforts to resolve disputes in the South China Sea. Among its neighbours, there is deep concern at the way it is seeking to make water a political weapon.

At the hub of Asia, China is the source of cross-border river flows to the largest number of countries in the world — from Russia to India, Kazakhstan to the Indochina peninsula. This results from its absorption of the ethnic minority homelands that make up 60 per cent of its land mass and are the origin of all the important international rivers flowing out of Chinese territory.

Getting this pre-eminent riparian power to accept water-sharing arrangements or other co-operative institutional mechanisms has proved unsuccessful so far in any basin. Instead, the construction of upstream dams on international rivers such as the Mekong, Brahmaputra or Amur shows China is increasingly bent on unilateral actions, impervious to the concerns of downstream nations.

China already boasts both the world’s biggest dam (Three Gorges) and a greater total number of dams than the rest of the world combined. It has shifted its focus from internal to international rivers, and graduated from building large dams to building mega-dams. Among its newest dams on the Mekong is the 4,200 megawatt Xiaowan — taller than Paris’s Eiffel Tower. New dams approved for construction include one on the Brahmaputra at Metog (or Motuo in Chinese) that is to be twice the size of the 18,300MW Three Gorges — and sited almost on the disputed border with India.

The consequences of such frenetic construction are already clear. First, China is in water disputes with almost all its neighbours, from Russia and India to weak client-states such as North Korea and Burma. Second, its new focus on water mega-projects in the homelands of ethnic minorities has triggered tensions over displacement and submergence at a time when the Tibetan plateau, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia have all been wracked by protests against Chinese rule. Third, the projects threaten to replicate in international rivers the degradation haunting China’s internal rivers.

Yet, as if to declare itself the world’s unrivalled hydro-hegemon, China is also the largest dam builder overseas. From Pakistan-held Kashmir to Burma’s troubled Kachin and Shan states, China is building dams in disputed or insurgency-torn areas, despite local backlash. Dam building in Burma has contributed to renewed fighting, ending a 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Army and government.

For downriver countries, a key concern is China’s opacity on its dam projects. It usually begins work quietly, almost furtively, then presents a project as unalterable and as holding flood-control benefits.

Worse, although there are water treaties among states in south and south-east Asia, Beijing rejects the concept of a water-sharing arrangement. It is one of only three countries that voted against the 1997 UN convention laying down rules on the shared resources of international watercourses.

Yet water is fast becoming a cause of competition and discord between countries in Asia, where per capita freshwater availability is less than half the global average. The growing water stress threatens Asia’s rapid economic growth and carries risks for investors potentially as damaging as non-performing loans, real estate bubbles and political corruption.

By having its hand on Asia’s water tap, China is therefore acquiring tremendous leverage over its neighbours’ behaviour.

That the country controlling the headwaters of major Asian rivers is also a rising superpower, with a muscular confidence increasingly on open display, only compounds the need for international pressure on Beijing to halt its appropriation of shared waters and accept some form of institutionalised co-operation.

The Financial Times 

By Damming Siberian Rivers Deripaska Intends to Integrate into Asian World

The South East Asia countries have got fully elaborated stages of development. In Deripaska’s opinion, Russia should enter this Asian world and integrate into it. The head of the Basic Element Company speaking at Baikal International Economic Forum (BIEF) has also mentioned that Asian countries and China primarily have got certain skewness and deviations dew to their high speed of development.

By all appearances, Deripaska is going to save China from the problems of its uneven development. For this purpose he offers to organize new exploitation of the Siberian resources.

In Deripaska’s opinion, huge natural resources and the absence of infrastructure are mutually exclusive. That’s why it’s time to make a decision now with what Russia should come to the world market, i.e. to reorganize the Siberian infrastructure radically.

During the BIEF plenary session the businessman has demonstrated the map of potential exploitation of hydro-energetic resources of Siberia. In his opinion, it is the hydroenergetics which can give a new impetus to the economy of Siberia and change substantially the energetic structure of the world, especially in the «after Fukushima» existence conditions.

Oleg Deripaska has sounded the plans of the construction of several new hydro-electric stations in Siberia. The produced energy will be aimed for the Asian market.

Contrary to popular belief that Siberia is a Russian depositary, the SFD share in the country’s GDP is only 10%. According to the growth rates the SFD has been substantially falling behind the other regions since 1997.

Deripaska has casted doubt on the possibility of the further development of Siberia in the existing economic conditions. In his opinion, Moscow is Europe oriented, as a result of it moving in the Asian direction is impossible. Deripaska has demanded in the ultimative form from Moscow to change the economic paradigm and integrate into the Asian world.

According to Deripaska, the existing infrastructure of Siberia is not enough for the harmonious development of his business. He has appealed to the large natural monopolies, the RR in particular, for radical investments, and the customs service — for the drastic increase of the through-flow rate of the Siberian and Far Eastern border check points. Without it the access to foreign markets of products produced and mined in Siberia will be impossible.

In Oleg Deripaska’s opinion, it is impossible to make friends with China, Korea and Japan from Moscow. It should be done from Siberia.

The speech of the odious oligarch has shocked the representatives of the authoritative bodies. Out of all the participants only the governor of the Irkutsk region Dmitry Mezentsev has managed to comment on this speech clearly. According to Mezentsev, the proposals of Deripaska are so substantial that they require «several BIEFs».