Environmental Flows Swapped for Power Exports?

Environmental Flows Swapped for Power Exports?

Photo by Zov Taigi
New Bureisky Hydro has no provision for environmental flows

In December 2011 in Khabarovsk several members of RwB Coalition participated in technical review of new Operational Rules for Zeysky Hydro Reservoir . Despite concerns voiced by NGOs and experts since 2008and supported by provincial agencies no provision was made to provide environmental flow release below Zeysky Dam to ensure flooding necessary for fish spawning and sustaining of floodplain ecosystem on Zeya and Amur rivers. There is strong evidence that even habitat of rarest birds Oriental White Stork and Japanese Crane has been reduced due to impacts of hydropower on river hydrology.

Representative of Amur Socio Ecological Union at technical review again voiced demand to ensure that such environmental flow provision is explicitly incorporated into reservoir operation rules and again was told by representatives of water management agency, energy sector and contractor developing Operational Rules, that there is no sufficient evidence on necessity to institute environmental flows…A besides that there is not enough water to meet all demands. Where does that water go?

The answer is simple – water necessary for sustaining river environment goes to China in the form of “surplus” electricity.

According to Xinhua report on January 2, 2012, the State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC) said it has put to trial operation a cross-border electricity transmission project in northeastern Heilongjiang province to supply Chinese with Russia’s electric power exports.

With a transmission capacity of 750 mega-watts, the electricity transmission project is China‘s biggest cross-border power line, according to SGCC.

“The implementation of the project will gain experience for the expansion of Sino-Russian energy cooperation and help promote the economic development for both countries,” SGCC said.

Russian Deputy Energy Minister Andrei Shishkin said in June 2011 that the

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transmission project would increase Russia’s power supply to five or six billion kilowatt hours of electricity to China and Russia intended to increase its electricity supply to China in the coming years. Russian companies plan export 60 billion kwh of electricity to China by 2020. Power plants will be built along its border withChina to reduce power transmission losses and reduce transportation costs.

Increased production at Zeyskaya and Bureiskaya hydropower plants is possible due to refusal to sustain environmental flows and mitigate adverse impacts on river ecosystems inAmurRiver Basin. Rushydro has already started building Lower Bureya Hydro and plans Lower Zeya Hydro to increase exports toChina. In late 2011 Rushydro secured 8-billion ruble loan from European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for support of technological merge of hydropower plants with thermal plants of newly acquired Eastern Energy System Company and “ realization of opportunities of electricity export to neighboring countries”. EBRD claims that “there would be no direct or indirect environmental or social impacts” associated with the loan. One may doubt that any improvements in environmental policies at Zeya Hydro will result from this EBRD project.

Sources: Xinhua Agency and RwB own info

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