Aug 27, 2021
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Mongolian dam threatens Transbaikalia

It seems that the numerous inquiries of Russian ecologists, regional administrations, scientists, and the public regarding the inferiority of the Mongolian hydro project for the Russian Transbaikalia have had an effect. Namely: the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Committee (WWN) at the end of July this year. ordered Ulaanbaatar to stop the aforementioned work pending a comprehensive environmental impact assessment of the project. Soon this work was stopped.

But the program of transferring the North Mongolian rivers transboundary with the Russian Federation (“Blue Horse”) to other regions of Mongolia is still planned for implementation. Bye…

Although this project on the Russian-Mongolian river Uldza directly threatens the biosphere, agriculture, fisheries, and then – the socio-economic situation in the southeastern Transbaikalia. Not to mention its indefinite negative consequences for the Russian-Mongolian-Chinese reserve “Dauria” and the adjacent Torey lakes. By the way, “Dauria” and Torei are included by UNESCO in the list of transboundary natural sites of international importance.

As for the aforementioned order of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage Committee (WWN), it was adopted by its 44th session in Fuzhou (PRC), which decided to stop work on the project on the river. Uldza, which flows into lakes on Russian territory. They noted “extreme concern” about the start of construction of the dam in 2020, which “happened without notifying UNESCO” despite the fact that the Uldza River “is the main source of water for the Torey Lakes within the Russian part of the heritage site.” And the state of these lakes depends “on the natural cyclical flow regimes (the Uldza River – I.L) and fluctuations in the water level.”

During the aforementioned session of the UNESCO IPN Committee, the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation officially supported the assessment of the damages of the Uldze hydraulic dam, calling on Ulan Bator to conduct a joint environmental review of this project.

According to the latest information from the press service of this department, such an examination is all the more in demand, since Mongolia began construction of a dam “on the Uldza River in 2020 without warning from the Russian side.”

Mikhail Kreidlin, Program Manager for Specially Protected Natural Areas of the Greenpeace branch in the Russian Federation, notes that after a request from UNESCO (on the eve of the session of the UPN Committee in Fuzhou), the Mongolian side presented its assessment of the project’s environmental impact “to prove the safety of the facility being built.”

However, due to the decision of the session of the UNESCO IPN Committee, the work on the project seems to have stopped. In any case, satellite images of the second half of July – early August of this year, according to the expert, show that “no action is being taken by the Mongolian side.”

Moreover, the Mongolian side reacted to such assessments on the eve of the session of the IPN Committee. More precisely, on June 16 this year. The State Duma of the Russian Federation hosted a meeting of the Deputy Group for Relations with the Parliament of Mongolia. During the meeting, Ivan Kushch, head of the department of international cooperation of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, said that when the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mongolia B. Batsetseg was on a visit to the Russian Federation (May 31-June 2 this year), the question of suspending the construction of the dam was raised, “and the reaction of the minister was positive. ” The same Russian department is initiating a study “to prove to the Mongolian side that the consequences of the project will be irreversible and harm the environment.”

And in development of the decision of the 44th session of the UNESCO IPN Committee by the decree of the government of Russia dated August 4 this year. (N 1302) the area of ​​the Daursky Reserve has been expanded more than one and a half times, up to 84.1 thousand hectares. This happened due to the inclusion in it of most of the Zun-Torey lake, that is, the main reservoir of the Torey lakes (Uldza flows into the Zun-Torey).

That is, the area of ​​the UNESCO World Natural Heritage has been expanded at the expense of the Torey Lakes bordering Mongolia, which are also wetlands of international importance. This means that any unilateral measures that violate the ecological regime of this entire territory and its international biosphere status are legally impossible.

Moreover, the same session of the UPN-Committee recommended that “Russia and Mongolia, with the possible participation of China, consider the future expansion of the transboundary World Natural Heritage site (that is, the Dauria reserve – I.L.) in order to cover additional forest-steppe areas and places habitats of migratory birds and Mongolian gazelle.

This recommendation makes the implementation of this Mongolian project all the more difficult. And it confirms, and in fact – strengthens the international ecological status of the Daurian-Torey biosphere region.

Meanwhile, Mongolia is preparing a more ambitious project (Blue Horse): diverting most of the flow of transboundary rivers adjacent to Baikal and Transbaikalia to the arid south and southeast of the country. It is planned to build 33 dams on 13 rivers of Mongolia, including the main rivers transboundary with the Russian Federation – Selenga, Onon and Kerulen.

The International Environmental Coalition Rivers Without Borders, Greenpeace Russia and many Russian specialized experts have already made a request to the UNESCO IPN-Committee for a study under its auspices on the environmental consequences of this project for Lake Baikal, the Mongolian-Russian rivers flowing into Lake Baikal and for their tributaries …

Hopefully, such a large-scale and equally problematic project will also be brought under control. In this regard, we recall that not without the intervention of the same Committee, Mongolia in 2020 stopped work on the creation of a cascade of hydroelectric power plants at the Selenga flowing into Lake Baikal, since it directly threatened the biosphere of the entire Baikal region.

The main projects for the transfer of the North Mongolian rivers.

Igor Leonov

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