RESOLUTION OF THE 8th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE “RIVERS OF SIBERIA AND THE FAR EAST”
Irkutsk, June 6-7 2013
? Irkutsk Regional NGO “Baikal Environmental Wave” (host party)
? International coalition “Rivers without Boundaries”
? NGO “Buryat Regional Association on Lake Baikal”
? World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Russia
? ISAR-Sibir Interregional Public Environmental Fund
? Movement of public organisations and initiative groups “Siberian Rivers Network”
? Krasnoyarsk Regional NGO “Plotina” (Dam)
? Amur Regional Public Ecological Organisation “AmurSEU”
The conference was attended by 100 representatives of public environmental organisations, scientific and educational institutions, governmental organisations, energy and hydraulic engineering companies and design organisations from 16 regions of Russia, international environmental organisations,the expert community and the public from China, Mongolia, USA, Australia, Central and South-East Asia, as well as head of the Environment Division of the UN European Economic Commission.
The main topics of the conference were:
? The scientific basis for biodiversity assessment and conservation of rivers and lakes, environmental monitoring of freshwater bodies.
? Biodiversity of rivers and lakes: assessment and conservation.
? The impact of hydrotechnical facilities and mineral extraction on freshwater ecosystems and strategic aspects of the operation of hydrotechnical facilities in river basins.
? Experience in the implementation of the basin approach in different regions of the world (the basin of the Aral Sea in Central Asia, Mekong River basin in South-East Asia, the Great American Lakes and the St. Lawrence River in North America).
? Opportunities for strategic environmental assessment for sustainable development and the international dialogue on water use in the Baikal-Angara-Yenisei basin, the basins of the Amur River, Ob` River, and Volga River.
? Initiative of local residents, municipal authorities and public organisations on protection of rivers and lakes, the development of ecotourism, environmental education and public awareness.
6 plenary reports, 51 reports and presentations in 8 sections were presented at the conference. 4 roundtables on the following topics were conducted:
1. The choice of environmental indicators for HPP construction projects in the Amur River basin.
2. Possibilities of ecotourism development as an alternative to resource-oriented development.
3. Discussion on strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of plans and development programs in river basins.
4. Joint actions for protection of the Selenga-Baikal, Angara, and Yenisei basins.
A number of letters to the Russian Government and Subjects of the Federation, legislative assemblies of the regions, environmental authorities, and hydropower companies and addresses to state authorities of the Russian Federation, China and Mongolia, and international financial corporations were prepared.
The Conference made the following suggestions and recommendations based on these discussions:
? The concerned public are to apply to the governments of the Russian Federation, Mongolia and China with a proposal to expedite the ratification of the following international conventions: the Espoo Convention with the application of the SEA Protocol and the Aarhus Convention.
? In accordance with the procedures of the World Bank, interested parties are to appeal to the Government of Mongolia to assist in the participation of representatives from countries neighboring with Mongolia in environmental assessment (with elements SEA) of the feasibility study project of the World Bank for the construction of hydropower stations in the Shuren area and Orkhon-Gobi project (transfer of the Orkhon River`s water to mineral deposits in the Gobi desert).
? To ask the State Great Khural of Mongolia in accordance with the «Law on the development and introduction of draft laws and other normative acts of the State Great Khural for consideration by the State Great Khural », section 4 of article 19 of «Discussion of bills by the population» to initiate in the Selenga River` basin a regional referendum on the construction of hydropower stations on the Selenga River (Shuren HPP) and the transfer of water from the Orkhon River (project Orkhon-Gobi).
? To ask the Government of Mongolia to hasten the execution of the law “On the prohibition of mineral exploration and mining near rivers, in water protection areas and forest lands” and initiate cooperation with neighbouring countries to reduce risks from mining facilities for ecosystems of transboundary water basins.
? To recommend to the Federal Water Resources Agency (Rosvodresursy) to place on the departmental website”Rules of the use of water resources of reservoirs of the Angara cascade of HPPs” Project to inform the public concerned and for the organization of public discussions.
? To toughen administrative punishment for poaching, to introduce a clear line concerning the extent of damage that could be considered sufficient for the application of criminal prosecution.
? To eliminate corruption in the activities of regulatory bodies in the field of protection of water biological resources. It is therefore necessary to take measures to increase the level of salaries of inspectors of the fish protection agencies, as the high level of corruption is due to low salaries of the employees of the fisheries.
? For conservation of forest ecosystems of the Baikal basin, with their important water-regulating and water protection functions, it is required to restore, taking into account the changes in forest legislation, in the Baikal Natural Territory of the Russian Federation special logging rules, taking for a basis the project for the organization of forest management in the Lake Baikal basin, developed in the Laboratory of Silviculture of the Forest Institute of SB RAS and partially reflected in the “Regulations on main felling in the forests of Eastern Siberia, 1994”, “Instructions on selective logging in the forests of Eastern Siberia, 1994”.
? For the development of a volunteer movement, the conference recommends the adoption of a Federal subsidy program for volunteer travel to the regions of Siberia and the Far East. This measure will permit the number of volunteers to increase considerably, and encourage an active environmental attitude in children and young people.
? The report on the state of floodplain wetlands on the only remaining non-flooded section of the Angara River within Irkutsk region convinced the participants of the conference of the necessity to recommend that the regional Government create a reserve of regional significance in the territory (between Irkutsk and Angarsk). Reserve status would stop the degradation of the Angara floodplain under the influence of economic activity, grass fires, and excessive recreational load.
On the issue of preserving the unique ecosystem of the Gulf of Ob` in connection with the extraction and processing of natural gas, the conference notes that designing a canal to the sea port of Sabetta for removal of products from the projected plant “Yamal LNG*” crosses the Obskii bar (threshold), which is a natural barrier to the movement of the heavy and dense waters of the Kara Sea, with a salinity of about 30%, to the South, in the direction of the freshwater part of the Bay.
Dredging in this area of the sea will lead to penetration by the salty waters of the Kara Sea to the Gulf of Ob` (halocline), to a change in the freshwater ecosystem of the sea, to the ruin of one of the world’s largest habitats of valuable species of white fish (omul, muksun, Siberian white salmon, whitefish, vendace, whitefish, Peled, and others).
Compensation for non-preventable damage to water bioresources, traditionally planned through the release of the young of valuable fish, could prove to be ineffective as, if loss of the necessary conditions for habitat occurs, the development of juveniles would be impossible.
With the aim of preserving the unique ecosystems of the Gulf of Ob` the preferred option is construction of an LNG plant on the shore of the Baydaratskaya Bay (Cape Kharasavey). The west coast of the Yamal Peninsula is already well-developed: the Kharasaveysk and Bovanenkovsk fields have already been developed and have coastal infrastructure.
On the problem of the Baikal pulp and paper mill participants of the conference note that despite the decision on the closure of the Baikal pulp and paper mill (BPPM) declared by the Government of the Russian Federation, the plant continues to operate to this day, continuing to pollute the lake, and there is no certainty regarding a program and terms of closure. At the 34th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (in 2010), the Russian delegation promised that the problem of pollution by the BPPM will be solved within 30 months. This period ended on January 30th 2013, but the promises made on behalf of the Russian Federation, have not been met.
In this connection participants of the Conference «Rivers of Siberia and the Far East» expresses deep concern over the failure of the state to fulfil its commitments made before the international community. The Conference urges the Government in the shortest possible time to close the main production at the BPPM, agree upon and submit a Plan for modernization of the economy of Baikalsk and the Slyudyanka district of Irkutsk region and other plans prepared for the development of the economy of the region 2013-2020 for public discussion
In conclusion the participants of the conference express their gratitude to the conference organizers for good organization of the reception and accommodation of participants and the running of all the conference events.
The resolution was discussed and adopted as of June 07 2013.
Irkutsk Oblast (Lake Baikal)
* LNG — liquefied natural gas.