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Russia raises its concerns over impact on Lake Baikal of Mongolia's hydropower plans

By The Siberian Times reporter
22 July 2016

Prime minister raises the issue on sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Ulaanbaatar.

Up to 50% of lake Baikal's annual water inflow is from the Selenga. Picture: Vyacheslav Rezunov

The concern is expressed amid fears that before any planned hydro developments come on stream, Baikal - the oldest and deepest lake in the world - has entered a new period of naturally low water levels which may last for a quarter of century. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree according to which was set a new official 'minimum' level for Baikal is 455.5 metres above sea level. The previous level set in 2001 was 456 metres.

Mongolia has announced plans to build a cascade of hydropower plants, including one on the Selenga (Shuren) River, and two on Selenga tributaries - the Orkhon and Egyin Gol. Russian officials see this as posing a 'serious ecological threat' to Lake Baikal. Up to 50% of its annual water inflow is from the Selenga.

Russia raises its concerns over impact on Lake Baikal of Mongolia's hydropower plans


Russia raises its concerns over impact on Lake Baikal of Mongolia's hydropower plans
A map and a space shot of river Selenga flowing into lake Baikal


Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko said in advance of the session in Ulaanbaatar: 'We will certainly speak about Baikal ecology and will continue to discuss collaboration in the Russia-Mongolia-China format and a number of other issues.'

The Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Ministry opposes the Mongolian hydropower project. As previously reported, it managed to persuade the World Bank to put a freeze on financing of the Mongolian hydropower plants and offered Mongolia alternative supplies of Russian electric power. 

Expanding the capacity of the Gusinoozersk-Darkhan power transmission line is seen as an option. 

Another possibility is to make Mongolia a transit country for Russian electric power supply to China.

Russia raises its concerns over impact on Lake Baikal of Mongolia's hydropower plans


Russia raises its concerns over impact on Lake Baikal of Mongolia's hydropower plans


Russia raises its concerns over impact on Lake Baikal of Mongolia's hydropower plans
River Selenga. Pictures: Vyacheslav Rezunov


Lake Baikal is a national heritage of Russia, on the UNESCO World Heritage List, and Selenga is the main tributary of this lake, which means the construction of a dam needs to be coordinated with the Russian government and UNESCO.

The lake contains around 20% of the globe's unfrozen fresh water. In setting a new official level for Baikal, a Russian government document states: 'The low-water period continues in 2016 in the basins of Lake Baikal and the Angara-Yenisei reservoir.

'The level of water in the Angara-Yenisei reservoir did not recover during the 2015-2016 autumn-winter season, thus making possible another threat of an emergency situation in the region, caused by the low water.'

TASS reported citing the government: 'The minimum mark parameter will help ensure stable thermal power and water supply for households and industrial facilities in the downstream reach of the Irkutsk HPP during the low water content period. 

'At the same time, the mark of 457.85 metres will correspond to the statutory threshold level of safety at industrial and hydropower facilities during the high water period.'

Since 1962, the water level of Lake Baikal has been observed to drop below the 456-metre mark 11 times. The record low mark was 455.27 metres in 1982.

Comments (6)

It looks to me like Lake Baikal is being destroyed. I doubt it can be blamed on any one country, this loss of fresh water is becoming a global catastrophe.
David Wiebe, Canada
17/10/2017 10:35
0
0
another media lie. they forgot to mention the plant is being consulted by Russian gov't and to be built by Russian engineers.
irina, mongol
23/03/2017 11:35
0
0
Yeah! Dry up the lake. Then the survivors of this mess move to Mars, then they destroy also Mars, then they go somewhere else to keep on destroying and consuming everything.
Andres Suarez, Cancun, Mexico
27/07/2016 07:03
0
1
I continue to agree that it is critical to protect Lake Baikal and all surrounding/interconnected eco-systems. Thank you for this update on the current status of actions being taken to do so. Just one thought is,would it be possible to include a link to the prior articles for people to be able to easily follow the entire situation? It has been very well explained the risks of the projects, lessons learned from past mistakes (Aral Sea) and several comments posted.
Pamela Tetarenko, League City, USA
26/07/2016 21:08
4
0
Medvedev writes a new degree taking a .5 metre less off the official sea level written up in 2001. Has this guy nothing else to do...you think his mind would be on the fires raising havoc in many forest areas of Siberia. He & his cohorts up in cosy Moscow are as useful to the Russian people as an ice cubes in a desert. How do these people keep being elected when they are no better than donkeys turned backwards into asses. (Don't take offense of my last word for it reflects another clone word for donkey).
Jaker, Dundalk
25/07/2016 10:41
2
1
I find this so ironic in the face of Russian policies regarding lake preservation and water usage in the previous century ... is this change in attitude a case of too little, too late?
BahaHurican, Bahamas
24/07/2016 01:56
3
3
1

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