To: Dr.Chen Jining, Minister of Environmental Protection of China;
CC: Mr. Gao Hucheng, China Ministry of Commerce;
Mr. Liu Liange CEO, China EXIM Bank;
Mr.Chen Xiaohua, CEO, Gezhouba International Co.
Dear Dr. Chen:
We are addressing You as participants of public hearings on ESIA for "Shuren HPP" Project taking into account other hydropower projects planned in Selenge the River Basin. The hearings were undertaken on the initiative of local citizens in Kabansk administrative districts of Buryatia Republic (Russian Federation) where planned hydropower projects may have negative impact on environment and socio-economic situation.
Russian Lake Baikal is the largest and deepest freshwater lake on Earth enlisted as World Heritage Site which is now suffering from impacts of climate change and is under threat of further impacts from three reservoirs planned in Mongolia (IUCN, 2015).
The World Heritage Committee Session in Bonn on July 1, 2015 set forth requirements for impact assessment of Egiin Gol Hydro, Shuren Hydro and other dams, as well as a basin wide bilateral strategic environmental assessment (SEA). The World Heritage Committee requested that Mongolia should not approve any of the dam projects until the individual dam EIAs and assessment of cumulative impacts have been completed and reviewed by the World Heritage Center and IUCN.
The largest hydropower dam planned in Selenge Basin in Mongolia: Egiin Gol HPP should be built in 2015-20 according to the "Energy Policy of Mongolia till 2030". It will be the first large reservoir causing impacts in Selenge River Basin, as well as the source of "maneuvering capacity" for energy system of Mongolia.
On November 11 2015 Mongolia and China issued a joint statement that calls for development of large energy projects including three major coal industry complexes and large hydropower. Mongolia also secured a 1 billion USD loan from China EximBank which it will use for construction of Egin Gol Hydro , preparation for which has been started by Gezhouba Int. Co..
Cooperation with Mongolia is labeled by China as part of its "Silk Belt" development initiative, which is very strange, because key policy document on the initiative clearly states that conservation of biodiversity and cooperation on preservation of World Heritage are key priorities.
We want to draw Your attention to the fact that Mongolia and China have not fulfilled request of the 39th Session of WHC, which prescribed to undertake impact assessment of hydropower dam planned in Selenge River basin BEFORE any approval and construction of Egiin Gol Hydro or other hydropower projects. This may lead to a violation of respective articles of the Ramsar and World Heritage conventions by both Mongolia and China. Parties to these conventions have to avoid causing harm to natural sites protected by conventions in other countries (e.g. Lake Baikal and Selenge River delta). Conducting of environmental impact assessments is an important first step in efforts to prevent such harm.
Therefore, we ask You to undertake necessary measures to ensure, that financing and construction of Egiin Gol Hydropower Plant does not start before the Government of Mongolia fulfills the following requirements set forth in the Decision of the World Heritage Committee:
-to ensure that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) developed for the Egiin Gol Project includes assessment of potential impacts not only on the hydrology but also on the ecological processes and biodiversity of the property, and specifically on its OUV, and to provide the full EIA report to the World Heritage Center;
– to develop an assessment of cumulative impacts of any planned dams and reservoirs in the Selenge river basin may have an impact on the OUV and integrity of the property and to provide this assessment to the World Heritage Center;
– not to approve any of the projects until the above mentioned EIAs and assessment of cumulative impacts have been reviewed by the World Heritage Center and IUCN;
We also believe it is necessary that Mongolia makes full ESIA results for "Egiin Gol HPP" publicly available for examination by international community. Without these data it is impossible for us to evaluate risks for our households and environment in which we live, and we also cannot estimate impact from other dams in Selenge river basin in absence of this ESIA document. We ask you as representatives of investors, financing party and owners of construction company for Egiin Gol Hydropower Plant to facilitate disclosure of this essential information to all potentially affected groups of population.
We hope for constructive cooperation with China’s agencies and companies in the common task of preserving World Heritage and promoting sustainable development.
A.G.Shaidurov, Interim Head of Municipal Administration, Kabansk District.
For general background see post Save the Lake Baikal – a victim of climate and hydropower