Архив рубрики: Petitions

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

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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 rivermovements@gmail.com

Rivers without Boundaries

(Sources: Reuters, UMMRL and own sources)

Three Gorges Co.: it is inevitable to jointly develop hydropower resources in Russia

 Engagement in Russia’s hydropower development for the Sino-Russian Friendship

A speech delivered by  Three Gorges Co. representative  Chen Guoqing at Baikal Economic Forum

Dear Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen?

Good afternoon.  On behalf of Mr. Cao Guangjing, Chairman of China Three Gorges Corporation and Mr. Zhang Cheng, President of China Yangtze Power Co., Ltd. I would like to present a brief introduction of my company and the cooperation in Russia.

1.     Briefing of China Three Gorges Corporation and China Yangtze Power

China Three Gorges Corporation (Hereinafter referred to as «CTGPC») is China’s largest clean energy group now. CTGPC’s principal operations include hydropower project engineering, construction and management, electricity production, related technical services, and etc.  

CTGPC has built and owned the Three Gorges Hydropower Plant with total installed capacity of 22,500 MW, and is developing more hydropower plants on the Upper Yangtze River, including Xiluodu HPP (13, 860MW), Xiangjiaba HPP (6,400MW), Wudongde HPP (8,700MW), Baihetan HPP (14,000 MW) and other giant hydropower projects. By the end of 2020, the total installed capacity of the Corporation will exceed 90 GW.

China Yangtze Power Co., Ltd. (hereafter called «CYPC» for short) is a joint stock company controlled by CTGPC. CYPC is currently the largest listed hydropower company in the People’s Republic of China («PRC»). By the end of 2010, the Company owns the Gezhouba Hydropower Plant and all the generating units of Three Gorges Hydropower Plant with total installed capacity of 21,077 MW.

2. The Globalizing Process of CTGPC and CYPC

Large-scaled hydropower development and operation are the core competitiveness of CTGPC and CYPC. With advantages of the Three Gorges Brand and of that in the technology and management, it is our goal to build a large clean international energy group through participating international hydropower development and hence promote the energy cooperation between China and Russia as well as other neighboring countries. CTGPC and CYPC bring the International hydropower development as their long-term strategic objectives. Currently, CTGPC has hydropower and infrastructure projects in more than 20 countries and regions.

3. Cooperation with Russian Partners

3.1 Background of Sino-Russian Hydropower cooperation

(1)  Rich hydropower potential in Siberia and the Far East

Russia is rich in hydropower potential amounting 10% of the world total, which is mainly in Siberia and the Far East, where the electricity demands and hydropower development are low.  With the long-distance transmission technology maturing, it is feasible to transmit power from Russian Far East and Siberia to China.

(2) Cooperation Opportunities in Sino-Russian Hydropower Development

It is the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty on Good-Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation between China and Russia. The cooperation between China and Russia in political, economic, cultural and strategy has been strengthened in these 10 years.  Sino-Russian’s cooperation in various fields, including electricity are clarified in ?Sino-Russian’s Investment Cooperation plan? approved by the leaders of the two countries in June 2010 and  ?Sino-Russian Joint Statement about deepening strategic partnership?signed by both governments in September.

(3)  Sino-Russian economic development needs the cooperation of power companies in the two countries

Russian government  released the strategy for developing energy resources in Siberia and the Far East in ?Far East and Baikal region socio-economic development strategy before 2025?in early 2011 and also put forward a set of plan to strengthen international co-operation and actively attract foreign investors. In the long run, it is an inevitable trend to meet the electricity demand in Northeastern and Northern China, to improve the local energy structure, to promote clean energy utilization and to jointly develop hydropower resources in Russia, and transmission power to China.

??3.2 Considerations on Sino-Russian hydropower cooperation

The power projects on the border river and in Russian land are in large number, board involvement and long construction period. The implementation of these projects need the guidance and co-ordinations from the energy and water resource departments from both countries and the cooperation of grid and designing companies. Russian two  largest power companies  are leading power companies in Russia and are the two most important power companies in Siberia and the Far East.  CTGPC/CYPC has extensive experience in hydro project construction, power plant operation management, and sound credit and influence on capital markets.  There are good foundations between CTGPC/CYPC and two largest Russian hydro power companies. We shall follow the principles of sharing risk and interests to develop mutually beneficial cooperation?also take the social responsibility, and work together for Sino-Russian friendship and common development .

3.3 Progress of cooperation

To promote and realize the strategic objectives of joint development of Russian hydropower resources  and  power transmission to China, two Russian largest power companies and CTGPC /CYPC have conducted communications for  many times and have made substantial progress through signing of framework agreement and making collaboration plan. We are promoting the project?level cooperation now.

4. Suggestion and prospects

With the deepening of the strategic and energy co-operations between the two countries, Sino-Russian joint development and cooperation will enter into a new stage.  Since the hydropower development is a long term strategic cooperation, we would like to make following suggestions:

(1) Bilateral coordination mechanism on the hydropower development shall be established by the government departments from both countries to support and guide the co-orperation between companies of the two countries and the rolling revising on the middle and long term plans by the government departments shall be carried out to meet the social and economic development.

(2) In order to place a solid and long term cooperation foundation, it is important to continuously improve market access conditions and taking full advantages of the suppliers from both countries to effectively reduce the cost and control the risks.

(3) The supervision and regulatory authorities, financing institutes and the enterprises involved should study together to find out the project financing portfolio and risk control mechanism to help the enterprises getting better financing support.

In the foreseeable future, Sino-Russian cooperation will set off a new chapter in the energy filed. CTGPC /CYPC will put their foremost efforts to make it happen.

RAID letter to the Mongolian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

3  July 2011

to H. E Gombojav  Zandanshatar

Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

 

 


RE : Arrests of  Leaders of Fire Nation (Gal Undesten) and United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL)

 

 


Dear Minister,

 I am writing to you as a matter of some urgency regarding the reports we have just received concerning the recent arrests of leaders of Mongolia’s environmental movement. I am the Executive Director of Rights & Accountability in Development (RAID), a non-governmental organization that works to promote human rights and responsible corporate conduct.  I am also a member of the Steering Board of the British Government’s National Contact Point for OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises- a government-backed code of conduct for promoting responsible corporate behaviour.

The arrests on 23 June 2011 of the leaders of Fire Nation and the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL) would appear to be related to their opposition to mining undertaken in areas where such activities are prohibited by law because of the risk to Mongolia’s rivers and key water sources.  They have organized demonstrations in Ulaan Baatar, the capital and visited companies in certain areas to dissuade them from mining in protected zones in contravention of Mongolian law.

According to information that we have received four UMMRL members were arrested on 23 June after they had accepted an invitation to attend a public meeting issued by a local government official of Uvurkhangai aimag.  On arrival Tsetsegee Munkhbayar, N. Sambuu-Yondon, D. Tumurbaatar and M. Baatarkhuyag were immediately arrested. They are now being held at the Gants Khudag detention centre.  Only in the case of Mr Ts. Munkhbayar was there warrant for the arrest for damage to property.  This relates to an incident that occurred in September 2010 when Mr Munkhbayar and three other UMMRL members allegedly fired shots with their hunting rifles at gold mining equipment belonging to two foreign companies, Centerra Gold and Puuram LLC in the mountains of Selenge, one of the provinces with the highest concentration of gold production. The incident is under investigation.  Munkhbayar is also alleged to have fired shots on 22 June 2011 at equipment belonging to the gold mining company,  Irmuun Bosgo LLC, in Uvurkhangai.

Other arrests of environmental activists took place on 23 June in Ulaan Baatar: G. Boldbaatar, Ts. Enkhayar and G. Dashdemberel, who are leaders of UMMRL and the Fire Nation were arrested allegedly on the orders of Sukhbaatar District Judge N. Sukhbaatar because they had helped organize unauthorized demonstrations in Sukhbaatar Square, Ulaan Baatar’s main square.  These demonstrations took place in April, May and early June. Dozens of nomads and herders from regions surrounding the capital converged on Sukhbaatar Square to demand the adoption of draft legislation to demarcate the boundaries of the protected areas.

This is not the first time that the international community’s attention has been drawn to the social tension in Mongolia arising in relation to the rapid expansion of mining activities and the apparent failure of the Government to find a balance between the interests of mining industry and the rights of the wider population to an adequate standard of living and a healthy and safe environment.  Indeed the concerns about the human rights impact of mining was raised in a submission signed by a group of civil society organizations during Mongolia’s Universal Periodic Review:[i]   The United Nations has also expressed its concern about the problems associated with poorly regulated mining:

According to the Constitution, land is the property of the State. The rights of indigenous nomadic people to use the pastureland are recognized in customary law but there are no individual rights to pasture use or ownership. Mining licenses are issued by the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy and local stakeholders are barely consulted in the decision making process. In recent years, 40% of the land has been conceded to mineral licenses. As from April 2010, the President has stopped the mineral affairs authorities delivering new mining and exploration licenses for an indefinite period, until a legal environment has been created. In 2009 a law was introduced to prohibit mining near important natural resources. Mining is prohibited within Protected Areas, which cover 14 percent of the Mongolian territory.  The law requires mining companies to rehabilitate the environment, but it is not adequately enforced. People’s right to a safe and healthy environment is threatened by exhausted deposits which leave the land damaged, soil and water sources extensively polluted, especially with mercury and altered or dried up waterways.[ii]

In 2009 the Mongolian Parliament passed legislation prohibiting mining in protected zones including forested areas, river headwaters and water reservoirs.[iii]    But before this law can be implemented, the boundaries of the protected lands must be defined for the whole territory of Mongolia.  In 2010 UMMRL worked with the Water Agency and local representatives to set these boundaries in the regions. The draft law covers an area of about 30 percent of the country. Its enactment is therefore an important step towards ensuring the ecological balance of Mongolia and a healthy and safe environment for its inhabitants, as well as towards preserving its territorial integrity and biological diversity. Boundaries of protected lands are enacted by decisions of local governments, but they require final authorization by the Government of Mongolia.  The demonstrations in the capital had the objective of encouraging parliament to pass the law.

Many mining companies, such as the Toronto-listed Centerra Gold, which has a 100% equity interest in the Boroo gold mine (110 kms NW of the capital), have allegedly expressed their opposition to attempts to strengthen Mongolia’s environmental laws.  A group of MPs with links to the mining industry have also tabled amendments to the 2009 law protecting water resources, which would enable companies, who already have mine licenses, to continue to mine for gold in protected zones.  While the Government of Mongolia has banned the activities of some smaller Mongolian companies, foreign mining companies have been allowed to continue, allegedly because they have threatened legal action if their licences are revoked.

Over the past 15 years gold extraction has diverted or dried up rivers and the use of toxic chemicals has polluted many rivers and streams.  In June 2011, the Fire Nation delivered letters to a number of companies including Centerra Gold, calling on them to cease their operations.

We would urge the Government of Mongolia to respect the right to freedom of expression of the members of Fire Nation and UMMRL.  Those alleged to have committed firearms offences or damage to property should be formally charged or released.  All should be grated access to their families and lawyers. There is an urgent need for the Government to enter into dialogue with Mongolian civil society so as to avoid further confrontation and to enact legislation to protect the country’s ecosystem on which the lives and livelihoods of the rural population depend.   It is only through dialogue that the problems underlying the opposition to the mining sector can be addressed.  Many foreign mining companies such as the Canadian Centerra Gold are expected to adhere to the provisions of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.  The OECD Guidelines seek ‘to encourage the positive contribution which multinational enterprises can make to economic, social and environmental progress, and minimise and resolve difficulties which may arise from their operations’.  Companies are also expected to:

Refrain from seeking or accepting exemptions not contemplated in the statutory or regulatory framework related to human rights, environmental, health, safety, labour, taxation, financial incentives, or other issues. [OECD Guidelines 2011 Chapter II (v)]

On 16 June 2011 the UN Human Rights Council endorsed Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  The Guiding Principles remind States that they have an obligation to ‘Enforce laws that are aimed at, or have the effect of, requiring business enterprises to respect human rights and periodically to assess the adequacy of such laws and address any gaps’. States should  also ‘maintain adequate domestic policy space to meet their human rights obligations when pursuing business-related policy objectives with other States or business enterprises, for instance through investment treaties or contracts.’[iv]

It is my hope that theses human rights principles will guide the Government of Mongolia in its efforts to reach a speedy and just solution to the conflict that has arisen in relation to mining in protected zones.

Yours sincerely,

Patricia Feeney

Executive Director

Rights & Accountability in Development | PO Box 778, Oxford, OX1 9GU | United Kingdom

Tel: (+44) (0)1865 436245 | Fax: (+44) (0)1865 612001


A letter from United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes

Dear All,

Greetings from the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes! We would like to inform you our brief update since May of this year.

Until last May, you all had received information about enforcement process for the new law on the prohibition of mineral exploration at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoirs and forest areas of 2009.

Also members of the UMMRL developed the law to amend to the law on Environmental Protection. Five amendments had amended on Articles 3, 4 and 32 of the law. (Environmental NGOs and citizens shall claim to court, to supervise the public monitor for environmental laws and regulations, to demand to eliminate breaches and to inform organization authorized to make decisions). On July 08, 2010 this law was passed by the Mongolian Parliament.

The law which was passed on July 16, 2009, imposes the following restrictions on exploration and mining rights:

-Revokes licenses to explore or mine any and all mineral resources within an area no less than 200 meters from a water resource.

-Requires the government to compensate rights holders for exploration expenses already incurred or revenue lost from actual mining operations.

-Empowers local officials to determine the actual areas which can be mined. In effect, the local official can extend the 200 meter minimum at his discretion.

Between last April and June, the officials of the Water Agency and representatives of environmental NGOs as well as local citizens worked together to establish boundaries of protected zones of water reservoirs in every place of the country. Basically, the boundaries had already established between 200 and 5000 meters. But the law on the prohibition of mineral exploration at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoirs and forest areas was not enforced until now. Because Mongolian Government did not impose regulation of the boundaries, the law has not yet enforced.

There were some protests and conflicts between mining companies and local citizens happened in several places such as Darvi soum of Gobi-Altai province, in Umnugobi soum of Uvs province, in Khyargas soum of Uvs province, in Jargalan soum of Gobi-Altai province, in Airag soum of Dorno-Gobi province, and at River Khug of Khuvsgul province. These clashes occurred because of illegal mining operations, local residents and herders are facing to lacks of drinking water and livestock pastures.

Approximately 1.2 year has already passed since passing of the new law. On behalf of the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes, we have submitted the official documents to the President, Prime Minister and Parliament Speaker with request to meet with us and enforce the law. This request includes 9 official documents addressed to S.Batbold, Prime Minister, 6 official documents addressed to Ts.Elbegdorj, Mongolian President as well as to D.Demberel, Speaker of the Parliament.

Therefore, On Sep 2, the UMMRL was announced that we will implement the law by force of local citizens if the Mongolian Government could not implement the law. Until now, the UMMRL hasn’t received any responses from them. In order to stop illegal mining operations,  four men including Ts.Munkhbayar (Head of Onggi River Movement), G.Bayaraa (Head of Khuder River Movement) with two members shot at heavy mining machineries and techniques for «Puraam» and «Centerra Gold» companies located in Tunkhel village of Selenge province.

Last June, some NGO members and environmental scientists visited to site of the «Boroo Gold» company. During the visit, Mr. John Cazakov, director of «Boroo Gold» company said «Mining Association and mining companies are trying to pass a new law which will stand against the law on prohibition of mineral exploration at headwaters of rivers, protected zones of water reservoirs and forested areas of 2009. We have lobby group in the Parliament and hope that law will be passed very soon.»

Activities of «Puraam» and «Centerra Gold» companies are illegal; their licenses should be revoked within the law. Basically, about 2800 mining licenses have to be revoked.

Best regards,

UMMRL

Mongolian NGOs Appeal to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights to resolve Oyu Tolgoi Mine Dispute

A coalition of Mongolian NGOs appealed on 23rd April 2010 to Professor John Ruggie, the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, to use his good offices to calm the tension that has erupted in the capital, Ulaanbaatar and other parts of the country, over the decision by the Government of Mongolia to allow Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines Ltd to develop a copper-gold mine in the South Gobi region (the size of Manhattan)without undertaking adequate environmental studies.  According to the NGOs there are a number of legal irregularities in relation to the Oyu Tolgoi agreement.

On 4 April 2010 NGOs and 200 representatives from 18 aimags (provinces) gathered in Sukhbaatar Square, the main square in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia’s capital, calling on the Government to respect its election promises and accusing it of selling out the country to foreign mining interests.   Tension mounted after an unprovoked assault on the demonstrators.  On April 5, thousands of protesters marched to the main square to demand dismissal of parliament. The demonstration ended peacefully, but some remained in Sukhbaatar Square waiting for a reply from authorities.

 On 8 April a Toyota land cruiser drove into the ger (traditional tent) where the protestors were based injuring eight people.  The driver of the vehicle (who was allegedly mentally disturbed) was subsequently arrested by police.   Seven demonstrators went on hunger strike demanding inter alia constitutional reforms and a review of the Oyu Tolgoi investment agreement.  There are concerns about the situation of the hunger strikers, who were taken away in the middle of the night on 14 April and placed under police guard in hospitals around Ulaanbaatar.  A District Health official justified these measures on the grounds that the hunger strikers’ blood sugar levels were dangerously low.  Police then cordoned off the square, removed the ger and confiscated the hunger strikers’ personal belongings and documents. Some of the people on hunger strike, who had come from rural areas, refused treatment and were ‘discharged’ from hospital on 17 April late at night.  

 Rio Tinto’s participation in the project is supposed to guarantee the world’s best mining and environmental practices. But, a major cause of concern is the absence of a full Environmental Impact Assessment and a detailed water study for the Oyu Tolgoi project which is located in the fragile ecosystem of the South Gobi Desert. Increasingly Mongolian civil society fears that the mine licences awarded to foreign companies will reduce both the quality and availability of water, threaten Mongolia’s wildlife and biodiversity; and decrease the amount of pasture on which the country’s traditional nomadic population depends for their survival.

«The Mongolian Government approved the Oyu Tolgoi Investment Agreement on 31st March 2010 without obtaining the prior consent of Mongolia’s parliament (the State Great Hural) and despite the fact that the technical and economic feasibility study  submitted by Ivanhoe Mines Mongolia Inc  has not met in full the recommendations of Mongolia’s Mineral Expert Council [the technical council that has the responsibility to approve mining projects]» said Ms. Urantsooj of the Center for Human Rights and Development, a NGO which has made a study of Mongolia’s mining and environmental legislation.

On 1 April 2010, the Mongolian NGOs, assisted by MiningWatch Canada and RAID, filed complaints in the UK and Canada against Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines Ltd for alleged breaches of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies.  .

The Mongolian NGOs are appealing to Professor Ruggie to contact the Government of Mongolia as a matter of urgency and to stress the need for Rio Tinto and Ivanhoe Mines Ltd to undertake a full environmental impact assessment and water study.  The NGOs are also asking Professor Ruggie to review the fairness of the benefit sharing arrangements of the Investment Agreement so as to ensure that the project helps eradicate poverty in Mongolia. 

«We are hopeful that Professor Ruggie’s intervention may help to bring a peaceful solution to the hunger strike and prevent further human rights violations» said Sukgerhel Dugersuren, the Executive Director of OT Watch.

The Speaker of Mongolia’s Parliament is trying to negotiate an end to the hunger strike. According to the NGOs nine people remain on hunger strike in Darhan city and in various districts of Ulaanbaatar. 

Professor Ruggie is to report to the Human Rights Council in Geneva in June.

«The Special Representative could use his good offices to bring the companies speedily to the negotiating table under the auspices of the Canadian and UK National Contact Points for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises» said Patricia Feeney, RAID’s Executive Director, an authority on the OECD mechanism.

Pres-release by: 

Center for Human Rights and Development (Mongolia)

OT Watch (Mongolia)

MiningWatch (Canada)

Rights and Accountability in Development (UK)

Friday 23 April 2010

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

Sincerely

Eugene Simonov.

Coordinator

Rivers without Boundaries

Ramsar Secretariat Sends Urgent Recommendation to Assess Cumulative Impacts of Dauria’s Water Infrastructure Projects

The Chinese, Russian, and Mongolian agencies managing the Dauria International Protected Area (DIPA) received a letter from the Ramsar Convention Secretariat regarding protecting Daurian wetlands. The letter reaffirms the organization’s previously stated intention to nominate DIPA as a trilateral transboundary Ramsar site. The Ramsar Secretariat supports the idea of expanding DIPA to encompass already existing protected areas on the Dauria Steppe and new areas in need of protection, such as floodplain wetlands near the Hailaer-Argun and Buir Lake. Ramsar also supports the development of a joint management plan for this international protected area. These suggestions were all documented in the official resolutions from the 2006 meeting of the Mongolian-Russian-Chinese DIPA Joint Commission, but thus far none have been implemented. This is a timely reminder from Ramsar, as parties prepare for the upcoming Joint Commission meeting in Mongolia.

The Ramsar Secretariat learned that a number of water infrastructure projects are under construction in the area and sent a letter to the Chinese State Forestry Administration, Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Mongolian Ministry of Nature, Environment, and Tourism, and to DIPA administration. The letter inquires whether the projects’ cumulative impacts have been assessed and if the three countries are conducting any joint environmental monitoring programs. The letter suggests using the internationally-recognized strategic environmental assessment procedure recommended at the recent 2008 Ramsar Conference of Parties in Korea.

See full text here.

IUCN Expresses Its Deep Concern to Russian and Chinese Leadership

On July 9, 2009, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature sent an appeal to Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev expressing its deep concern regarding the potentially disastrous environmental impacts of the Hailaer/Argun River-Dalai Lake water diversion project. IUCN reminds the leaders that the Daurian Steppe has been identified as «one of the most important natural temperate grassland biomes remining on Earth» for the rich biodiversity the wetlands and surrounding floodplains support. Furthermore, this particular area is the subject of a biodiversity conservation agreement signed between Russia and China in 2007; with these letters, IUCN urges both leaders to engage in cooperative transboundary efforts to preserve the ecosystem and mitigate the potential climatic changes that this and other water infrastructure projects in the region may cause.

IUCN Letter to Hu and Medvedev

Mongolian NGOs campaign for river protection

The leaders of the River Movements went on hunger strike starting from July 2 to urge Mongolian legislature to adopt a law protecting vulnerable parts of river basins from mining. If the law is enacted, about 30% of Mongolian territory, mostly river valleys and headwaters will be protected from major encroachment.

They also issued an open letter to secure public support for the draft law which states to prohibit mining operations in river basins and forested areas and to have it approved by the Parliament during 2009 Spring Session of the Parliament.

On December 25, 2008, the draft law was introduced to the Parliament by a group of Parliament Members led by PM B. Bat-Erdene. On May 7, 2008, the Environmental and Agricultural Standing Committee of the Parliament discussed the draft law and then it was forwarded to the Parliament on May 8th. Most of the PMs expressed their support for the draft law and agreed to discuss it at next Parliament meeting. Then on May 13, a Standing Committee was formed to build the framework of the law.

However, the Standing Committee has held back its work with an intention to postpone the discussion of the draft law during the spring session of the Parliament. Some members of the committee are known to have close connections to the mining companies and own mining licenses.

All seven leaders of the River Movements worked and campaigned in their provinces for the support of the draft law. The President, the Prime Minister and several Parliament members have already received 6000 letters of support from 13 provinces. It was also signed by many leaders of environmental NGOs in Russia and other neighboring countries.

Source: Mongolian River Movements
July 3, 2009
Ulan-Baatar.

Daursky Biosphere Reserve sent an urgent call for support

Upon learning in May 2009 that construction was already halfway complete on a canal designed to divert a significant portion of the Hailaer-Argun River to Dalai Lake, researchers from Daursky Biosphere Reserve (part of the Dauria International Protected Area) sent an urgent call for support to the international conservation community. Scientists believe that diversion of this much water poses several major threats to the project site, downstream transboundary wetland areas, the Dalai Lake ecosystem, and biodiversity throughout the Daurian ecoregion.

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