Архив рубрики: Papers

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

Mongolia National Water Programme — Action Plan

Thanks to  generosity and good cooperation spirit of the Mongolian Water Authority we finally obtained English text of the Action plan.
We were especially impressed with the opening actions  under Section 3:

3. The following measures shall be taken towards creating conditions for the accumulation of water resources, provision of potable water, which should meet the requirements for health standards by improving water supply for industry and agriculture in order to provide sustainable environmental development:

3.1. Develop designs for the construction and operation of a reservoir and a hydropower station at the Hovd river and its tributaries and at Northern Arctic Ocean Basin downstream of glaciers in order to create a water resource with 70,000-80,000 million cubic meter impoundment in the high mountain region

3.2. Perform studies on the possibility for regulating flow and constructing reservoirs at the Orhon, Selenge, Herlen, Tuul, Hovd, Bulgan, Halh, Onon, Eg, Harhiraa, Turgen, Shished, Eroo, Haraa, Tamir, and Bogd Rivers, and transporting water for various uses; perform designs at feasible locations and implement construction work

Now as You are intrigued



UNECE looks into Argun River environmental flow requirements

Second workshop on water and adaptation to climate change in transboundary basins: challenges progress and lessons learnt, held on 12-13 April 2011 in Geneva.

The workshop was organized on 12 and 13 April 2011, back-to-back with the fourth meeting of the Task Force on Water and Climate (14 April 2011). It brought together countries and other stakeholders engaged in activities on water and adaptation to climate change, in particular in transboundary basins, with the aim to exchange practical experience and share lessons-learned on the technical and strategic aspects of adapting to climate change.The workshop was organized under the leadership of the Governments of the Netherlands and Germany, with the support of the UNECE secretariat.

Workshop gathered more than 100 participants from 35 countries, who came from various backgrounds and had different, innovative, often conflicting views on climate adaptation.

Eugene Simonov representing «Dauria Going Dry» pilot project presented report  «Design of environmental flow requirements of Argun River and opportunities for their introduction into transboundary management».

Report was well received by the audience and  spurred discussion in which representative of Moldova suggested that UNECE Water Convention should be more focused on ecological and nature conservation aspects of climate adaptation.


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.


«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,


Herlen-Gobi river transfer promises to solve all environmental problems

Web-ste of «Mongolian Water Center» http://uudrug.co.cc now displays absolutely misleading description of  Herlen-Gobi Project (as well as Orkhon-Gobi Project), which says the following:

The objective of the Herlen-Gobi Project is to divert water from the Herlen (Kherlen, Kelulunhe) River and supply it to the Southeastern Gobi regions by means of a pipeline network.  This would require that a dam and intake structure be constructed at TogosOvo, which is approximately 125 km southeast of Ulaanbaatar.  Then pipelines pump stations, and supporting facilities would be constructed to bring water south.  The pipelines would branch near Choir, with one branch continuing South to OyuTolgoi and possibly Dalanzadgad, and the other branch turning southeast, generally following the road and railroad to ZaminUud on the China border.


  • The stream of «Herlen river» will be sustain and equable. «Herlen river» project is very significt to influence positive to Herlen river basin, near regions, and furthermore influence ecological balance of Dalai lake located in China coherence with global climate change by increase ecological potential of Herlen river.
  • «Herlen gobi» project can be actual power to fight desertification arising in Mongolian gobi region, and steppe, and can prevent from decrease groundwater resource existing those regions.
  • In future our country will have Heavy industrial center in Sainshand, and have to make decision water supply system of this center.
  • If we provide healthy safe drinking water, adequate sanitation service to population that live in settlements, and sub provinces existing in Gobi region nowadays, and in future, and Zamiin-Uud free economic zone, then it’s possible to improve population health, and average age longer 10 years.
  • Along main water transmission line in each 10 km create about 50 watering place, and thereupon these places will supply rural population, livestock.
    This project will bring water supply to Shivee-Ovoo, and Tsagaan suvarga mining industries. And those mining industries are significant to Mongolian governments to give to their public ‘Motherland ration’ project.

RwB views this publication as a very alarming example of «greenwash» for one of the most questionable water infrastructure projects in the Dauria region.

Dauria pilot project submitted to the UNECE Water Convention

 The Task Force on Water and Climate under the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes is responsible for activities related to adaptation to climate change, including flood and drought management. In 2007-2009, the Task Force prepared a Guidance on Water and Adaptation to Climate Change  which provides governments with strategic recommendations on how to implement adaptation in the water sector and throughout water-related policy sectors addressing in particular transboundary aspects. The Meeting of the Parties also decided to foster implementation of the Guidance through a programme of pilot projects and a platform for exchanging experience with adaptation in the transboundary context.

The third meeting of the Task Force on Water and Climate took place on Wednesday, 12 May 2010, in the Palais des Nations, Geneva, back-to-back with the Workshop on adaptation to climate change in transboundary basins, which was held on 10-11 May 2010 in Geneva.

The meeting discussed the programme of pilot projects and the platform for exchanging experience with adaptation in a transboundary basins. It also provided an opportunity to review implementation of the Guidance on Water and Adaptation to Climate Change and to discuss a possible contribution to the seventh Ministerial Conference of the «Environment for Europe» process, to be held in autumn 2011 in Astana, Kazakhstan, which will have water and water-related ecosystem as one of two themes.

 «Dauria transboundary rivers- adaptation to climate change» was the pilot project proposal presented to the Task force by  Eugene Simonov, on behalf of Dauria Biosphere Reserve, WWF Russia

Argun-Hailaer, Khalkh, Kherlen, Uldz, Onon rivers- virtually all notable basins of the Amur Headwaters are transboundary. Greatest threat — competition for water made the goal of national policies and demolishing transboundary wetlands to store waters on national territories. Unfortunately this threat is rapidly unfolding into crisis as countries start implement unilateral measures to alleviate drought consequences. Russia need assistance from the Convention on developing adaptation strategy for the Argun River Basin and environmental flow requirements for transboundary rivers of Dauria.

Proposed focus of the pilot project under UNECE is climate change adaptation, research on environmental flow requirements, monitoring  and assessment including data management and information exchange.

Specific objectives of the pilot project:

1— Climate adaptation and strategic assessment of river management options

2—Develop environmental flow norms for the Argun and Uldz Rivers.

3—Enhance wetland monitoring system.

4—Wetland protected area network enhancement.

5— Education and information sharing on climate adaptation in transboundary Dauria

The main priority for cooperation with UNECE is the mechanisms of the Convention of the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, in particular, «GUIDANCE ON WATER AND ADAPTATION TO CLIMATE CHANGE.»

A strategic assessment of the water management options in the Dauria should be prepared, based on the guidelines. This strategy will identify key threatening processes to the Dauria water systems and prescribe both Russian domestic and cooperative transboundary actions to prevent and remove these threats. Preparation of such policy document will introduce modern approaches to transboundary river basin management into decision-making in the region and establish links to relevant international institutions.


The problems of Dauria transboundary rivers evoked interest and support on the part of meeting participants: Convention Secretariat, representatives of Slovakia, US, Germany, etc. Kazakhstan representatives invited colleagues from Dauria to a workshop on Lake Balkhash and Ili River basin, shared with China. Task Force members  suggested that contacts with China and Mongolia could be made before the meeting in Astana to try to envolve them into dialogue on transboundary basins with UNECE region.

At the end of the meeting a letter from «Rivers of Siberia» international conference on necessity to provide international assistance to Dauria transboundary basins, where water crisis is unfolding, was submitted to the Convention Secretariat.

Giant chair at UN entrance in Geneva

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

Riversymposium — keynote case-study on Amur and Argun

The Amur River: from the Daurian steppe to the Sea of Okhotsk — was the topic of the report delivered in Brisbane at riversymposium by Yury Darman — Director of Amur branch of WWF-Russia:


Water management in the Amur-Heilong River basin is largely unsustainable in all three basin countries and is based on very different premises and policies. Given current development patterns, these factors will lead to a massive use of water resources and to the construction of large reservoirs as the most effective means of water diversion. There is an obvious need for careful, international planning to adapt to climate change both in the Amur headwaters and across the entire basin as well. We can predict that current, wasteful water management policies coupled with projected climate change will:

  • further increase aridization of natural landscapes;
  • decrease surface water flows in river courses;
  • further decrease water resources available for use; and
  • increase levels of pollution in watercourses.

The most rapid change happens in Dauria, where the increasing occurrences of large-scale forest and grass fires in all three countries are well correlated to rates of global warming. The obvious and immediate threat in the sphere of water management comes from a series of water transfers planned for the already water-deficient Kherlen, Onon, Argun/Hailaer Rivers. A channel from the Hailaer River to Dalai Lake, is already almost complete and will divert at least 30% of the Hailaer/Argun River (1.05 km?) into China’s Dalai Lake. For the wetlands and agrarian communities downstream from the channel in China and Russia such a significant decrease in water supply would cause irreparable destruction. Reservoirs upstream from channel further reduce river flow and help to cut off floods that sustain Argun River wetlands.

We are reasonably sure that such water transfer will threaten globally important wetland ecosystems, water sources and probably even boundary demarcation in the area where the Argun River forms the China-Russia border. Such water policy precludes Russia, China and Mongolia from any coordinated, equitable and ecologically-sound transboundary water management regime in the Amur River headwaters and leads to major maladaptation to climate change. Argun River needs to secure internationally the environmental flow sufficient to sustain its floodplain wetlands. In contrast to these aggressive water transfer schemes and reservoir-building race, a more appropriate use of the Upper Amur would be to test international cooperation in adapting water use and conservation measures for large ecosystems characterized by periodic droughts. See fulll report here

Argun River Basin Under Imminent Threat from Water Infrastructure Project

This is a case study on water infrastructure project threats to the Argun River, written by Eugene Simonov in May 2009 upon learning of rapid progress on Hailaer-Argun canal construction. The paper shows discrepancies between assumptions about the projected impacts of the water diversion project and scientifically-documented ecological processes in the Daurian wetlands. The author calls for comprehensive international climate adaptation efforts in the region.

Читать далее