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Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Презентация объясняет основные проблемы охраны и управления объектом всемирного наследия "Озеро Байкал"
Eugene A. Simonov
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The Rivers without Boundaries Coalition was asked to participate in OWHVoices Symposium to talk about local communities' struggles to protect World Heritage sites from destruction by hydro-engineering projects. We described our experience in collecting case-studies on local struggles into "Heritage Dammed" Report and issuing recommendations to the UNESCO and convention signatories on improvement of river conservation under the World Heritage Convention. Symposium web-site https://www.ourworldheritage.org/events/symposium2022-session1
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
"Landscapes of Dauria" World Heritage transboundary property faces dual threat from reservoir construction on Ulz River in Mongolia and placer gold exploration on Yamalka River in Russia. The paper discusses constructive ways to confront those threats. PS:After the paper was printed, the authors got confirmation, that due to our effective efforts the gold prospecting company has withdrawn from Yamalka river headwaters in Russia. The dam construction on Ulz River has not been restarted in Mongolia as of end October 2022, however, it is still listed in the country's development plan.
Eugene A. Simonov
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In 2021 Lake Baikal experienced abundant water inflow, more than that in 2020 which resulted in inundation of vulnerable coastal areas and excessive erosion. Nevertheless, the water level regulation in 2021 again was driven by priorities conflicting with the conservation objectives for Lake Baikal ecosystem and outstanding universal value of the World Heritage property. Lake Baikal was managed for flood control and hydropower generation at the expense of its conservation values, which led to continuous damage to coastal and near-shore ecosystems, and those impacts have not been properly monitored and documented by national environmental agencies. The paper lists corrective measures, which, in our opinion, are needed to reduce the negative impact of water level regulation on the lake ecosystem and local communities.___________________________________________________ Несмотря на большой приток воды в 2021 г. озеро Байкал будет по-прежнему используется в качестве противопаводкового водохранилища для устранения недостатков в работе Иркутской ГЭС, вызванных незаконно построенными зданиями в пойме реки Ангара, а также для того, чтобы вода не расходовалась впустую без производства электроэнергии. Это ведет к увеличению негативного воздействияна экосистемы и выдающуюся универсальную ценность объекта наследия. Статья содержит рекомендации по систематическому снижению негативных последствий на экосистему озера и местное население.
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Recently the “hardships of war” concept provided an important opportunity to the business world and government to try to weaken restrictions and add loopholes into already ailing environmental legislation, policies, and practices. In this analysis UWEC Work Group’s Eugene Simonov explores how these and other factors have impacted the jewel of all jewels – the Lake Baikal World Heritage property.
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
This chapter was written in 2020 and many important events took place afterwards, including changes brought by war in Ukraine. Please look for updates in World Heritage project @Eugene Simonov RG page. Synopsis of the 2020 manuscript: Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest freshwater lake on Earth with unique flora and fauna. Recently an alarming number of problems were observed mostly in the near-shore zone, which include harmful algal blooms triggered by nutrient pollution, mass mortality of endemic sponges caused by pathogens, pollution from PCB’s and microplastics, and fluctuating lake levels. Lake Baikal suffers from a multitude of human-induced threats, such as pipeline and railroad construction, excessive tourism development, insufficient sewage treatment, artificial lake level regulation, poor fisheries management, forest fires and logging, and legacy pollution threats from Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill. We argue that inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger may facilitate development of a legally-binding plan for safeguarding the Lake. Citation: Simonov, E., Kreyndlin, M., Ivanov, A., Panteleeva, I., 2022. Lake Baikal in Crisis. In: DellaSala, D.A., Goldstein, M.I. (Eds.), Imperiled: The Encyclopedia of Conservation, vol. 2. Elsevier, pp. 389–408. https://dx.doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-821139-7.00055-6.
Eugene A. Simonov
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This Report is an updated review of conservation status of Lake Baikal, first published in 2020 in a collection of papers dedicated to the 25th anniversary of World Natural Heritage in Russia . It was updated through monitoring conducted by many conservation activists and scientists. The manuscript reflects the situation with Lake Baikal conservation as of May 1, 2022
Eugene A. Simonov
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This is a regular annual review before the World Heritage Committee session submitted to UNESCO. Lake Baikal World Heritage is suffering increasing degradation. The Main Reasons for Poor Management: No effective management structure\system or desire to create it. No transparent and science-based management plan(s) with relevant performance indicators and monitoring mechanisms. Laws and regulations are partial, lack enforcement and are weakened by haphazard amendments driven by profiteers and their short term economic objectives. Current crisis may further decrease ability of the State Party to fulfill its obligations under the World Heritage Convention.
Eugene A. Simonov
added 2 research items
Transboundary rivers, lakes and wetlands at World Heritage sites are threatened by dams and water withdrawal projects in Mongolia. Mongolia developed the “Blue Horse” Water Management Program with 33 dams planned on 13 rivers, including all major rivers of Dauria: Selenge, Egiin Gol, Orkhon, Onon Gol, Ulz Gol and Kherlen Gol. Planned reservoirs were included in Mongolia’s NDCs (nationally determined contributions under the Paris Agreement ). This report discusses international mechanisms needed to confront those threats.
Lake Baikal World Heritage is suffering increasing degradation. The Main Reasons for Poor Management: No effective management structure\system or desire to create it. No transparent and science-based management plan(s) with relevant performance indicators and monitoring mechanisms. Laws and regulations are partial, lack enforcement and are weakened by haphazard amendments driven by profiteers and their short term economic objectives. Presentation provides most current examples of continued mismanagement. On March 11 corrections were made in the conclusions to reflect changing situation.
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
The outstanding universal value of Lake Baikal World Heritage property has been seriously compromised due to implementation of new “temporary” Decree on minimum and maximum levels of the Lake Baikal in 2021 #654 issued by the Russian Government. The RwB presents new data from the field showing widespread negative impacts along the low-lying lake shores resulting from improper water resources management in Russia. In Mongolia the “Blue Horse” Programme includes construction of a water transmission pipelines from Orkhon River and Kherlen River to Gobi, developing Erdeneburen Hydro, and undertaking “all possible measures” to develop Egiin Gol Hydro . Two of those four projects belong to Lake Baikal Basin and have been subject to continuous WH Committee decisions from 2013 on.
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Е.Симонов уполномочен сообщить Вам что ДАННОЕ СООБЩЕНИЕ (МАТЕРИАЛ) СОЗДАНО И (ИЛИ) РАСПРОСТРАНЕНО ИНОСТРАННЫМ СРЕДСТВОМ МАССОВОЙ ИНФОРМАЦИИ, ВЫПОЛНЯЮЩИМ ФУНКЦИИ ИНОСТРАННОГО АГЕНТА, И (ИЛИ) РОССИЙСКИМ ЮРИДИЧЕСКИМ ЛИЦОМ, ВЫПОЛНЯЮЩИМ ФУНКЦИИ ИНОСТРАННОГО АГЕНТА. (№ 78 в списке по версии Министерства юстиции РФ). А также ОТЛИЧНИКОМ ОХРАНЫ ПРИРОДЫ РОССИЙСКОЙ ФЕДЕРАЦИИ (по версии Минприроды России), ЛИЦОМ, ПРЕДСТАВЛЯЮЩИМ ПОТЕНЦИАЛЬНУЮ УГРОЗУ НАЦИОНАЛЬНОЙ БЕЗОПАСНОСТИ МОНГОЛИИ (по версии правительства Монголии), ДОКТОРОМ ОХРАНЫ ПРИРОДЫ (по версии Минобразования Китая), ЛАУРЕАТОМ ЭКОЛОГИЧЕСКОЙ ПРЕМИИ ВИТЛИ (по версии принцессы Анны, дочери королевы Великобритании) и пр.
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Sharp rise in negative impacts on World Heritage sites, occurring despite limitations of the COVID, is in particularly obvious for properties affected by dams and other water infrastructure. In 2019 the RwB and World Heritage Watch presented at the 43rd Committee Session in Baku the “Heritage Dammed” Report ( http://www.transrivers.org/pdf/2019HeritageDammedFinal.pdf ) , listing 50 such properties , while now in 2021, despite special decisions made by the Committee to prevent such damage, we can list up to 80 sites that have been threatened or already degraded by hydro-engineering projects. Only 14 affected sites are cultural properties and 5 are mixed, while the rest (75%) are natural properties. At least 15 of cases added to our list emerged\became evident during last 2 years between the 43rd and 44th sessions of the World Heritage Committee. This submission to the committee includes a statistical update, address from NGOs and recommendations for future decisions.
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
The Federal “Law on the Protection of Lake Baikal” was adopted in 1999, defining the Baikal Natural Territory (BNT) (Fig. 1). The Law prescribes that any project in the BNT should be subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and prescribes the issuance of three critical Governmental decrees: “On the List of Activities Prohibited in the Central Ecological Zone of the BNT”, “Standards for Allowable Impacts on the Unique Ecosystem of Lake Baikal” (SPI), “On the Maximum and Minimum Limits of Water Level in Lake Baikal”. These are essential to prevent the mismanagement of Baikal’s water resources, especially from the Irkutsk Hydro dam operations. The Law and those three decrees guarantee the protection of the World Heritage property. Although Baikal is not included on the List of World Heritage in Danger, decisions on protection of the property were made during 22 out of 23 Committee sessions held since 1996. The Lake is undergoing rapid negative changes. According to scientific reports there have been major changes in the lake ecosystem through: a massive invasion of Spirogyra and other green algae, secondary pollution from heaps of rotting algae, replacement of benthic and planktonic endemic species and communities by Siberian fauna and invasive species, diseases and death of endemic sponges (the main water filters), mass die-off of endemic mollusks and crustaceans, an increase in cyanobacteria, and an influx of persistent organic pollutants. Moreover, old sewage treatment plants often become a source of additional pollution. Throughout 2020 there were systemic attempts to weaken Lake Baikal’s protection regulations and speed up the development of tourist, infrastructure and industrial facilities in the property. This report is a summary review of those regulatory changes on pages 194-197 of this volume of WHW Proceedings. Corresponding presentation here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349641143 Detailed report in the Elsevier encyclopedia here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/351858572_Lake_Baikal_in_Crisis? ДЕТАЛЬНЫЙ ДОКЛАД НА ЭТУ ТЕМУ ПОСЛУЖИВШИЙ ОСНОВОЙ ДЛЯ ДАННОГО СООБЩЕНИЯ ИЗДАН НА РУССКОМ ЯЗЫКЕ ЗДЕСЬ: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346965137
Eugene A. Simonov
added 2 research items
Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest freshwater lake on the planet with unique flora and fauna. Of the 2595 species and subspecies of animals present, 56% are endemic. Lake Baikal is of exceptional value for the study of evolution. In 1996 Lake Baikal was inscribed on the World Natural Heritage List and then protected by special national legislation. During 2010–20 scientists have documented an alarming number of problems occurring mostly in the near-shore zone of Lake Baikal, which include harmful algal blooms triggered by nutrient pollution, mass mortality of endemic sponges caused by pathogens, pollution from PCB's and microplastics, and fluctuating lake levels. The ecosystem crisis in the near-shore zone is exacerbated by the effects of climate change. The current crisis is partly caused by a multitude of human-induced threats, such as pipeline and railroad construction, excessive tourism development and massive land-grabs in coastal areas, insufficient sewage treatment, lake level regulation in the interest of hydropower industry, poor management of fisheries, forest fires and logging, and legacy pollution threats from Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill. Although Lake Baikal is not included on the List of World Heritage in Danger, decisions regarding the protection of the property were made during 22 out of 23 World Heritage Committee sessions held since 1996. Typically, this much attention is only paid to properties included on the List of World Heritage in Danger and we argue that such inscription may facilitate timely development of a legally-binding plan for safeguarding the Lake . Outline: 1. Abstract 2. Keywords 3. Part 1. Lake Baikal World Heritage values and protection status o Unique values of the Lake Baikal o Legal protection of the World Heritage o Disruptions to the Lake ecosystem 4. Part 2. Threats to Lake integrity o Threats of oil and gas pipeline construction o The “Main Infrastructure” projects get exemption from the EIA procedures o Coastal development and tourism press o Development of special economic zones o Baikalsk pulp and paper mill (BPPM) and the development of industrial parks o The impact of the Irkutsk Hydro on Lake Baikal o Dam construction on tributaries o Mining o Lake pollution and standards for allowable impacts on the unique ecosystem of Lake Baikal o Lake Baikal fisheries o Forest management and forest fires o Climate adaptation and World Heritage Property Management 5. Conclusion: Will Lake Baikal be inscribed on the list of World Heritage in Danger? 6. References =========================================== Unfortunately in September 2021 the Researchgate management had to follow instructions from Elsevier and remove public copy of this chapter (SEE https://www.researchgate.net/blog/post/a-note-on-recent-content-takedowns ). However most of this training module factual material is based on our reporting to UNESCO also presented in a report dedicated to 25th anniversary of Natural World Heritage in Russia (SEE https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346965137 ). Below we attach only small (but very informative) sub-chapter " Disruptions to the Lake ecosystem" unique to this edition. It is a concise overview of scientific evidence on Lake Baikal ecosystem crisis. Dear Elsevier, please, note, that it does not exceed 5% of original text and thus we have full legal rights to share this text, even according to your self-serving standards, which impede exchange of ideas.
The Landscapes of Dauria is a transboundary Russian-Mongolian natural property inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2017. The central feature of the Russian part of the property is the shallow pulsating Torey Lakes and surrounding wetlands. The main artery of the Torey Lakes basin, the Ulz river, runs through Mongolian and Russian protected areas, supporting lakes and wetlands with abundant waterbirds. In July 2021 the Mongolian government started construction of a dam on Ulz river within a framework of nation-wide "Blue horse" Program. The dam may result in major alteration of Ulz-Torey wetland ecosystem. The paper is based on a report submitted to UNESCO, which triggered listing the Landscapes of Dauria as an item to be discussed during the 44th Session of the World Heritage Committee in July 2021. Paper was presented at the conference https://www.researchgate.net/publication/349641106 and then published on pp 198-201 of the 2021 WHW Report.
Eugene A. Simonov
added 2 research items
This presentation is focused solely on consequences for "Lanscapes of Dauria" of a dam construction on Ulz River which is in progress upstream from the World heritage property. Presentation complements reports submitted to the World Heritage Watch https://www.researchgate.net/publication/352157136 Also see detailed review published by Greenpeace Russia https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346965137
Presentation on the status of conservation of Lake Baikal in 2020 with focus on continued weakening of all legal protection instruments. Presentation complements reports submitted to the World Heritage Watch, which summarize detailed review published by Greenpeace Russia https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346965137
Eugene A. Simonov
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The new “List of Prohibited Activities”, enacted by Russian government on Dec 31st, 2020, opens ways for many activities with may have major negative impacts on the Lake Baikal and its surroundings. Report submitted by Rivers without Boundaries Coalition and Greenpeace Russia informs World Heritage Center about civil society concerns related to new legislation. === В сообщении проанализирован новый "Перечень запрещенных видов деятельности" отменяющий ряд важных запретов, что создает дополнительные риски деградации экосистем Байкальской природной территрии. К англоязычному сообщению приложено табличное сравнение старого и нового перечней на русском языке.
Eugene A. Simonov
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The book provides an overview of the Russian World Natural Heritage properties. It describes the main features of the territories that made them inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The book is released to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first World Natural Heritage property in Russia. Currently, eleven Russian natural properties are inscribed on the World Heritage List: the Virgin Komi Forests (1995), Lake Baikal (1996), the Volcanoes of Kamchatka (1996, extended in 2001), the Golden Mountains of Altai (1998), Western Caucasus (1999), Central Sikhote-Alin (2001, extended in 2018), the Uvs Nuur Basin (2003, together with Mongolia), the Natural System of Wrangel Island Reserve (2004), the Putorana Plateau (2010), the Lena Pillars Nature Park (2012, extended in 2015) and Landscapes of Dauria (2017, together with Mongolia). This brochure contains detailed review of each natural WH property and history and current assessment of key threats and problems associated with its preservation. Published by Greenpeace in Russian and English.
Eugene A. Simonov
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The RwB Coalition communication to UNESCO World Heritage bodies on potential threats to Landscapes of Dauria World Heritage property from water infrastructure development that started in July 2020.
Eugene A. Simonov
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. 23 июня 2020 г. межфракционная рабочая группа «Байкал» депутатов Государственной Думы РФ организовала круглый стол по проекту нового постановления федерального правительства, вносящего изменения в перечень видов деятельности, запрещенных в центральной экологической зоне Байкальской природной территории. На организованном депутатами Госдумы РФ «круглом столе» по Байкалу представители общественных объединений (в том числе экологической коалиции «Реки бе границ») представили согласованную позицию в отношении предлагаемых федеральным правительством нововведений, регламентирующих хозяйственную деятельность на Байкале Абсолютное большинство участников круглого стола, в том числе представители экологической коалиции «Реки без границ», высказалось за дальнейшую доработку проекта постановления с обоснованием каждого пункта и достоверной оценкой его последствий для экологии и жизнеобеспечения населения.
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
This is the first in a series of CSO reports submitted to the UNESCO on Lake Baikal issues before 44th Session of the World Heritage Committee. Report analyzes and complements official State of Conservation Report submitted by Russian Federation. Lake Baikal is facing an ecological crisis despite efforts ostensibly directed at safeguarding it. A report on the site’s State of Conservation submitted by Russia in late December 2019 has answered only a few of the World Heritage Committee’s questions listed in Decision 42 COM 7B.76. The report provides a relevant answer to only one out of 11 specific questions raised by the Committee in 2018. It contains outdated, inaccurate or irrelevant information on four more items: environmental assessment of water-level regulation; measures to control forest fires; development of management planning guidelines for protected areas; and joint strategic assessment of hydropower planned by Mongolia. Russia’s report ignores the Committee’s requests that pertain to ecological monitoring, forest-management plans, assessment of wildfire impacts on the ecosystem, EIAs for each Special Economic (tourism) Zone planned on lakeshores, assessment of potential impacts of reducing the Water Protection Zone of the lake, and an EIA for remediation of the former Baikal pulp-and-paper mill. The official report does not contain any judgment on the overall state of Lake Baikal; neither does it describe prevailing trends. corresponding presentation https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338843025
Eugene A. Simonov
added an update
Graph: dynamics of annual hydropower installations during last decade (data from IRENA)
The most recent statistics confirms our concerns about increasing damage form hydropower even in times of slowing growth of this sector expressed in the
According to the IRENA’s report “Renewable Capacity Statistics 2020” the global installation of new hydropower in 2019 was under 13000MW or 40% less than in 2018. Hydropower annual installation figures have been falling for 6 years in a row and now it is only about a quarter of what was put online in 2013.
First time in the century China (3842 MW) yielded the leadership in hydropower installation to Brazil (4600MW).
The champions of hydropower installation were countries which in 2019 experienced serious economic problems: besides China and Brazil, high amount of hydro was installed by Laos (718), Italy (401), Turkey (212), Iran (153), Tajikistan (120), Argentina (109), etc. This is surprisingly consistent with recent article by Sovacool and Gotz which shows that overreliance on hydropower leads to problems in countries’ development. Countries with less pronounced economic crises in 2019 opted to install solar or wind facilities at much larger scale.
Last year the world put on line 98000 MW of solar and 48000MW of wind, so the share of hydropower in the full newly installed capacity of renewables shrank to 7%.
More than 70% of hydropower capacity installed in 2019 comes from highly problematic dams:
-11 GW Belo Monte Hydro in Brazilian Amazon, which killed the Xingu river and displaced thousands of indigenous peoples;
-1218 Xayabury Hydro of Laos –the first dam to dissect Mekong River mainstream, necessitating extinction of most of its 200+ migratory fish species and starvation of millions of fishermen relying on those fisheries;
– Ilisu Dam in Turkish Kurdistan blocking Tigris River, exterminating ancient town of Hasankeyf, displacing 50000 Kurds and threatening the Mesopotamia Marshes World Heritage site downstream;
– 3600 MW Rogun Hydro of Tajikistan in Aral Sea Basin that  once almost caused a war and will inevitably exacerbate already acute water shortages and affect agriculture in downstream areas –source of living for many million people;
– Part of 3842 MW capacity that came on line in China comes from continued destruction of Yangtze River ecosystem, where extinction of a giant Chinese paddlefish due to impacts of damming was recognized by scientists at the end of 2019.
These are newly incurred enormous costs of hydropower, which no longer is the most affordable, most widespread or most efficient source of low-carbon energy. This industry is slowly dying and rapidly taking away our best natural treasures and cultural sites.
 
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Civil society organizations are addressing the World Heritage Center due to extremely worrying new developments that put the Lake Baikal World Heritage Site at immediate risk. This is both a risk of extreme pollution as well as of deterioration of the key legal norms protecting the Lake. The report on the site’s State of Conservation submitted by Russia in December 2019 has answered only a few of the World Heritage Committee’s questions listed in Decision 42 COM 7B.76 . The report provides a relevant answer to only one out of the 11 specific questions raised by the Committee in 2018: it confirms that mining license for Kholodnenskoye zinc deposit was revoked. It further contains inaccurate or irrelevant information on 4 more items: 1. Environmental assessment of water-level regulation (see paragraph VII of this report); 2. Measures to control forest fires (alarming statistics from 2019 is absent. paragraph X); 3. Management planning guidelines for protected areas (see paragraph VI); 4. Joint strategic assessment of hydropower planned in Mongolia (see paragraph VII). The 2019 report ignores Committee’s requests that pertain to: 1) Ecological monitoring system for Lake Baikal Ecosystem(see paragraph II); 2) Forest-management plans; 3) Assessment of wildfire impacts on the ecosystem (see paragraph X); 4) EIAs for each Special Economic (tourism) Zones (see paragraph VIII) ; 5) Assessment of impacts of reducing the Baikal Water Protection Zone; 6) The EIA for remediation of the former Baikal pulp-and-paper mill (see paragraph VIII). Besides these previously recorded problematic issues there are several new items, which, likely, require urgent attention of the World Heritage Center and Committee: • Planning of new alignment for the Power of Siberia Pipeline (see paragraph I); • President’s new Order on Lake Baikal (see paragraph II); • Baikal sub-project of the National Project “Ecology” (see paragraph III); • New “Norms of Allowable Impact on the Lake Baikal Unique Ecosystem” (see paragraph IV); • Proposals for overhaul of the legal environmental protection norms related to Lake Baikal and other WH properties. (see paragraph V); • Reform of the Governance System for the World Heritage site (see paragraph VI). The document combines the Summary of full CSO Report was submitted on February 20, 2020 and the communication on new threats issued on the March 31, 2020.
Eugene A. Simonov
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Summary of the RwB report on the Lake Baikal World Heritage Property prepared in January 2020 by The Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition
Eugene A. Simonov
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The "Heritage Dammed" Report, dedicated to protection of natural freshwater ecosystems, contains contributions from 30 civil society organizations (CSOs), experts and dam-affected communities around the world. The Report documents how water infrastructure plays key role in degrading aquatic ecosystems based on examples from more than 50 World Heritage properties, of which 42 sites are threatened by hydropower. Fourteen in-depth case studies illustrate and analyze the global threat to the rivers, lakes and World Heritage, in various regions ranging from the Selous Game reserve in Tanzania to the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, from the Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra to the Upper Svaneti in Georgia. Urgent need for conservation of intact freshwater ecosystems is illustrated by six examples of critically important rivers: the Congo, Mekong, Vjosa, Greater Zab, Amur and Karnali. The Report contains recommendations set forth by CSOs on how to protect the natural and cultural values of freshwater ecosystems in the context of the World Heritage Convention and beyond its scope. Last chapters present most recent evidence on broader spectrum of problems associated with unsustainable hydropower development. The intended audience of the document includes officials of the UN and other international organizations, expert community, financiers of development projects, water management and energy system planners, civil society leaders and university students. Key words: World Heritage, Aquatic Ecosystems, Freshwater Biodiversity, Indigenous Peoples, Hydropower. DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.2.33037.38883 For comments and clarifications please contact: coalition@riverswithoutboundaries.org
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
The "Heritage Dammed" Preliminary Report released by the Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition (RwB) and World Heritage Watch contains contributions from 25 CSOs, experts and affected communities around the world. Based on comments received the Report will be finalized and presented to the parties of the World Heritage Convention. KEY MESSAGES:  Freshwater ecosystems have become the most threatened part of the Planet's biodiversity. Water infrastructures: dams, dykes and canals play key role in degrading aquatic ecosystems. They forever change natural morphology and hydrology patterns of rivers and lakes, half of freshwater ecoregions globally are already degraded. Dams often threaten cultures, spiritual values and livelihoods of local communities.  The Report presents 51 recent cases of water infrastructure encroachment on the World Heritage properties, of which 42 sites are threatened by hydropower. The World Heritage List signifies most important cultural and natural values of the humankind. If these areas with the highest protection standard are degraded so quickly, then what all other freshwater ecosystems are facing?  Despite 50% decrease in hydropower development in recent years, the number of natural sites threatened by water infrastructure has increased by 14%. Dam builders are moving into remote wilderness areas, where indigenous peoples rely on free flowing rivers to preserve their cultural identity and way of life. Previously protected areas are delisted or their protection is weakened to welcome hydropower.  Twelve in-depth case studies illustrate and analyze global threat to the World Heritage, ranging from the Selous Game reserve in Tanzania to Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, from Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra to Upper Svaneti in Georgia.  Free flowing rivers are deprived of efficient protection worldwide. Among all large wild rivers only one stretch on Amazon and three inland deltas are protected by the World Heritage Convention globally. The report demonstrates potential and urgency for conservation by six examples of still wild rivers: Congo, Mekong, Vjosa, Greater Zab, Amur and Karnali. All those rivers are targeted for serial damming. The Draft Report contains preliminary recommendations how to protect natural and cultural values of freshwater ecosystems in the context of the World Heritage Convention and beyond. We are in the middle of a great crisis and to protect our freshwater heritage we must take action now:  Keep World Heritage sites, as well as any other biodiversity hotspots protected areas, off-limits of large-scale water infrastructure and prevent upstream and downstream impacts from hydropower;  Use all existing legal conservation tools to ensure protection in perpetuity of the remaining free-flowing rivers and design new tools for effective protection;  Expedite adjustment and removal from natural areas of water infrastructure that harms key freshwater biodiversity and conduct strategic environmental assessments to optimize tradeoffs at basin-wide level;  Stop the "Climatewash": allowing destruction of rivers by hydropower under the excuse "it is a remedy for climate change", while dams bring today destruction similar or worse than anticipated impacts of climate change on our rivers in the future;  Enhance investment safeguards and due diligence at financial institutions to divert funds from unsustainable water infrastructure projects to more sustainable alternatives for clean energy and water supply. http://www.transrivers.org/2019/2629/
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
"Landscapes of Dauria" World Heritage site straddles grasslands and wetlands at Russian-Mongolian border in Torey Lakes- Ulz river basin. Presently mining is the most important water-consuming sector in the Mongolian part of the Ulz river basin. It also has been the most widespread source of river pollution in Mongolia, which resulted in clashes between local herders and miners all over the country. This is especially dangerous in the Ulz river basin where dramatic drought cycles regularly create extreme natural water deficits.This communication prepared on request from the World Heritage Watch describes current knowledge on mining impacts in the "Landscapes of Dauria" and immediate vicinity.
Eugene A. Simonov
added 3 research items
Presentation of the RwB 2018 submission to the World Heritage Committee and two draft resolutions of the forum: Do Dams Damage World Heritage? – the RwB addresses the Convention ( http://www.transrivers.org/2018/2318/ and http://www.transrivers.org/2018/2330/ )
Presentation of the paper: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325544901
Eugene A. Simonov
added an update
Towards 42 Session of the World Heritage Committee in Bahrain
As testified in the 2018 World Heritage Watch Report, the coalition of Civil Society Organizations "World Heritage Watch" confirms such damage by describing damages from hydropower and other water infrastructure in at least 7 different countries (e.g. Bangladesh, India, Iraq, Macedonia, Philippines, Russia, Tanzania, etc.).
In the UNESCO World Heritage Database in the last 5 years a threat framed as "water infrastructure" has been presented in 93 State of Conservation (SoC) reports for 29 World Heritage sites in 24 countries. Concerns in several related "threat" categories are less numerous and often plague the same sites (e.g. Sundarbans of Bangladesh and Donana of Spain listed both for water infrastructure and non-renewable energy risks).
In 2018, the official SoC reports and draft decisions of the WH Committee documented threats and impacts from hydropower\ water infrastructure in at least 23 World Heritage properties. The 2018 general State of Conservation Report shows that 10% of World Heritage properties and 24% (!) of all natural sites are presently threatened with water infrastructure. The SoC Report also indicates, that compared with 1979-2013 Official Statistical Review the % of sites threatened with water infrastructure has increased, while share of natural sites threatened with many other "tangible impacts"(e.g. road construction) has decreased or stayed the same as in the case of mining . One of likely reasons for such increase is that impacts from most types of large water infrastructure are irreversible: cannot be mitigated once it has been built.
UNESCO statistics shows profound impact of energy and water infrastructure developments on the World Heritage network. However, it also demonstrates that dams alone threaten more World Heritage sites in more countries, than renewable energy, non- renewable energy and transmission linear utilities taken together.
This also illustrates another worrying tendency - many sites are threatened by infrastructure in another country, which is explicitly prohibited by the Convention. Ethiopia, Turkey, Bhutan, Mongolia, Kenya, Brazil, Panama, India, etc. operate, develop or plan dams, which threaten World Heritage sites in riparian countries.
Another important phenomenon that should be addressed by the Convention bodies and CSOs is international investment in energy and water infrastructure encroaching on heritage sites. Any sizable infrastructure that threatens World Heritage in developing countries, likely, receives some investments\loans from state institutions of other countries, which are also members of the convention or from multilateral development banks. In 2017 just China state banks alone invested more than US$ 7 billion into overseas hydropower. It is important to make sure that those international investors discern at the earliest possible planning stage, whether they may cause harm and violate the Convention and thus should preemptively help to undertake and present results of strategic environmental assessments to the World Heritage Center.
Every year The Committee devotes considerable part of each session to detailed monitoring of developments at properties put on the List of World Heritage in Danger. Out of 17 natural heritage sites listed at least one third are threatened (among other factors) with impacts from water infrastructure. In 2018 the Committee proposed to discuss two such properties: Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal and Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania . Selous Game Reserve is an outrageous case, where the country proposes to develop 2,100MW Rufiji Hydropower Project inside the World Heritage site and already started giving concessions for forest felling at reservoir bottom. It is symbolic that the Tanzanian government is being advised by the government of Ethiopia on the implementation of this project.
In June 2018 is WH Committee wants to discuss its inscription on the List of World Heritage of the Lake Turkana National Parks in Kenya. Lake Turkana is an example of a site that is affected by upstream international investments and an unfortunate example of the impacts of delayed action by the state parties involved, and defiance of state parties involved to implement decisions made by the World Heritage Committee. The Omo River flows for more than 600 miles, from its headwaters in the highlands in Ethiopia to its terminus at Kenya’s Lake Turkana, the world’s largest desert lake. The Gibe 3 dam on the Omo River in Ethiopia, completed in 2017, is already adversely affecting the hydrology of the Lake. Reports show a rapid decline in water levels since filling of Gibe 3 started in 2015.
We will have difficult 2 weeks in Bahrain trying to solve these issues.
See World Heritage Watch Report
 
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
It is often overlooked that haphazard human activities allegedly directed towards mitigation and adaptation to climate change may present a threat to natural heritage. Lack of coordination between different environmental objectives results in proposing projects for technological solutions in climate change mitigation, which may severely compromise values of World Heritage sites. Civil Society has important role in highlighting these contradictions and making governments and conventions' secretariats undertake efforts for removing particular threats and harmonizing overall policies. Without involvement of concerned citizens, bureaucracies and business alike are likely to use "climate change rhetoric" to advance large infrastructure and energy projects and have too many incentives to overlook threats those projects present to natural ecosystems. Many World Heritage sites are threatened by hydropower projects and other water infrastructure. For example, Lake Turkana (Kenya) and Lake Baikal (Russia) are both threatened by hydrological changes due to construction of large hydropower listed in countries' NDCs. "Landscapes of Dauria" (Mongolia and Russia) is threatened by proposal for interbasin water diversion from Onon to Ulz river framed as "climate adaptation" measure. So far in the case of Lake Baikal the exposure of hydropower projects as threat to World Heritage resulted in considerable reluctance on the part of investors: China EximBank backed out of Egiin Gol Hydro and redistributed its loan to other less risky projects in Mongolia. Other investors are not in a hurry to commit funds to this questionable cause. Despite this large hydro is heading the list of projects in Mongolia's NDCs. Mongolia still lists Egiin Gol hydropower plant among projects that should start construction works in 2018. Formal coordination mechanism between World Heritage convention, Bonn convention, and other biodiversity conservation conventions on one side and the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is highly advisable to harmonize their activities and ensure that adaptation and mitigation measures do not have any harmful impacts on World Heritage Sites.
Eugene A. Simonov
added an update
Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition (RwB) and Greenpeace Russia
Submission to the World Heritage Center and the IUCN. April 2018
Lake Baikal is undergoing serious environmental crisis. In 2017 among the good news was revocation by the Ministry of Natural Resources of the mining license for Kholodnenskoye Zinc deposit, which was the major step forward in ensuring lasting protection of the World Heritage Site. However, this is the only truly good news from 2017 that we can share. As we submit our comments the Lake Baikal water surface has already fallen almost quarter of a meter[1] below the previously set minimal level. Throughout the year local communities reported to press and authorities massive cases of land grabs on the lakeshore, mostly associated with international tourism development. Research of citizen-led "Baikal Expedition" has shown that even very low concentrations of pollutants\nutrients may induce serious negative reaction in local aquatic ecosystems, because of highly oligotrophic character of the lake.
We are deeply concerned with failures, delays and denials in implementation of WHC decisions on Lake Baikal . We want to draw Your attention to several specific aspects related to hydropower impacts and environmental monitoring of the Lake as well as new easements and exceptions made by the Government of Russia to Lake Baikal protection regime.
1. In 2016 the WHC requested that relevant agencies in Mongolia:
-Ensure that the 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 Centre (p.11a).
- Develop an assessment of cumulative impacts of any planned dams and reservoirs in the Selenge river basin that may have an impact on the OUV and integrity of the property and to provide this assessment to the World Heritage Centre (p.11 d).
- Not approve any of the projects until the above-mentioned EIAs and assessment of cumulative impacts have been reviewed by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN (p.11e).
2. In 2016 the WHC issued additional decisions:
In 2017 the WHC welcomed the intention of the State Party of Mongolia to undertake an additional study on the impacts of the Egiin Gol project on the biodiversity of the property, and notes the information provided by the State Party of Mongolia regarding the Shuren hydropower project and the Orkhon river project, including the Terms of References for the development of Regional Environmental Assessments (REAs) and Environmental and Social Impact Assessments (ESIAs) for these projects;(p.7).
Also in 2017 the WHC reiterated furthermore its request to the States Parties of the Russian Federation and Mongolia to jointly develop a transboundary SEA for any future hydropower and water management projects which could potentially affect the property, taking into account any existing and planned projects on the territory of both countries, and requests both States Parties to ensure that the results of such transboundary SEA guide the elaboration of ESIAs of any concrete hydropower and water management projects, including the planned Shuren hydropower project and the Orkhon river project;(p.8)
3. Concerns related to Egiin Gol Hydro Project.
We have to report, that according to information available to us, the WHC Decisions quoted above have not been implemented in full and some of them have been directly violated by actions of the Government of Mongolia.
After cancellation of feasibility studies for Orkhon and Shuren dam projects, the Egiin Gol Hydro remains the single most potent threat to ecological integrity of the Lake Baikal in Mongolian part of the basin. Construction of this hydro was launched in late 2015 and only thanks to timely reaction and resolute position of the World Heritage Committee this threat has been averted in 2016.
The Government of Mongolia listed the Egiin Gol Hydro construction project in its Power Plant Construction Plan for 2018, with specific investment of 20 billion tugrugs and a target to complete 10% of construction works in 2018[2]. The Egiin Gol Hydropower Company, that by July 2017 has a debt of 22 billion tugrugs[3] to the Development Bank of Mongolia[4], recently received new investment to continue creation of Eg River Hydro. Thus in September 2017 the State Property Agency ordered the Development Bank of Mongolia to provide additionally USD 2,5 million for the creation of this hydropower plant[5], which is clearly contrary to the WHC decisions.
The new Minister of Energy Mr. Davasuren calls Egiin Gol Hydro "first priority project" both in his interviews and response letters to NGOs[6]. Davasuren admits that assessment of Egiin Gol impacts on ecological processes has not been done yet, however he openly expresses belief that such assessment will show absence of any impacts on the Lake Baikal World Heritage Site[7].
This statement was made by the Minister despite of release to Mongolia side of the preliminary results of research conducted by Russian scientists, which predict possibility of serious negative impacts on Selenge-Baikal aquatic ecosystem from planned dams, including Egiin Gol Hydro.
For example, scientists claim that 3-5 times increase in winter flows[8] , inevitable if any large hydropower reservoir is built, will seriously disrupt spawning of the Selenge population of the Omul - Baikal Cisco (Coregonus migratorius) - the most important fish species of Lake Baikal economically and ecologically. Response matrices developed after the 2017 hearings confirm that Egiin Gol Hydro should be analyzed during the cumulative impact assessment[9]. The results of the research presented at the 2017 hearings have been definitely reported to the Energy Ministry of Mongolia, since now it is a lead agency overseeing the assessment planning by MINIS Project.
Given that in Mongolia "additional ecological assessment" is in the hands of Egiin Gol Hydropower Company subordinate to the Ministry of Energy, we have grave concerns regarding possibility of objective impartial assessment of impacts, when the Minister already knows and has announced the assessment outcome.
The Egiin Gol Hydro and other hydropower in Selenge Basin are listed as #1 climate mitigation measure for which Mongolia requests international funding in country's NDCs submitted under the Paris Agreement of UN Convention on Climate Change (please see our paper in the 2018 Proceedings of the World Heritage Watch Conference addressing this issue)
We are also deeply concerned, that instead of objective holistic revision of the Egiin Gol Hydro EIA in the light of WHC\IUCN requirements, some substandard study may be prepared to match conclusions already announced by the Minister of Energy.
Our main concern, however, is willingness of the Mongolian Government to proceed with Egiin Gol Hydro project before the SEA (strategic environmental assessment) and the CIA (cumulative impact assessment) for all water infrastructure plans in Baikal Lake basin have been implemented and results submitted to the World Heritage Center and the IUCN for review.
4. Concerns related to World Bank MINIS Project slow progress.
We are also deeply concerned that while Egiin Gol Hydro construction is being pushed forward, the implementation of the cumulative impact assessment of all projects (CIA) and the SEA requested by the WHC is being postponed.
The cumulative impact assessment of all projects (CIA) and the SEA should have been addressed by the MINIS Project implemented on a loan from the World Bank (WB) in Mongolia. In July 2017, the World Bank Inspection Panel[10] (WBIP) encouraged WB Management to ensure that the decisions of the World Heritage Committee are taken into account in any revision of the relevant TORs, which is consistent with WB policies on international conventions and its environmental safeguards. As a consequence, in September 2017 the MINIS cancelled tenders for REA\ESIA and feasibility studies for Orkhon and Shuren hydropower projects. The Government of Mongolia and the WB agreed to develop as a first step a regional environmental assessment (REA) with CIA as its component (which also covers Egiin Gol Hydro as most ready-to-go project and any other planned water infrastructure).
Nine (!!!) months since the Government of Mongolia agreed to WB Inspection Panel recommendation no tangible progress has been made in designing new assessment plans and consulting with stakeholders. Only in mid-April 2018 the REA terms of reference developed in June 2017(!) became a subject of substantive discussion at Expert Group Meeting on Water Infrastructure held in the realm of Mongolian-Russian Intergovernmental Committee on Transboundary Waters. Bilateral Expert Group provided more than 100 recommendations on REA ToR improvement and development of the next draft ToR is unlikely before June.
We question whether such a study can be implemented at all given that MINIS Project has to terminate in September 2019.
5. Concerns on fulfillment of WHC and IUCN requirements.
We also see signs that contents of the REA may be compromised and are not going to meet WHC\IUCN requirements for such assessments. The RwB experts in March-April 2018 reviewed the Draft REA ToR and believe that it does not reflect most requirements listed in WHC decisions and does not follow IUCN "Advice Note on Environmental Assessment ".
On March 16, 2018, answering the RwB question on the fulfillment of the World Heritage Committee's requirement to hold the SEA, MINIS stipulated that " Strategic aspects have been ...covered by separate but related strategic assessments of least cost power production for the Mongolian central power system and water supply to Gobi." We assume that when the WHC and IUCN in the World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment requested to look at alternatives, they implied that environmental and social impacts of various alternative scenarios of energy system development should be considered along with "least cost power\water production" to achieve sustainable development outcomes. The WBIP Final Report stresses that the MINIS Project "will also analyze alternative investments and technology, looking at options to generate energy with less environmental impact", while the MINIS reply promises to assess "least cost power production", a biased approach that in 2013 was completely inappropriately pursued in "Shuren HPP Pre-feasibility Study[11]". This clearly demonstrates the failure of the MINIS Project to follow\consider WHC and subsequent WBIP recommendations and creates huge concern regarding fulfillment of requirements of the World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment.
Another fundamental violation of requirements stipulated in the World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment was repeated refusal to hold public consultations on the key planning document - Draft REA ToR. This severely diminishes ability of the civil society to participate in the assessment process and the RwB International Coalition and other NGOs\citizen groups had to include this concern into their Request for Inspection submitted to the World Bank Inspection Panel last month.
We stress that no valid environmental assessment can be procured without continuous involvement of civil society and other stakeholders by means of public consultations at all stages of those assessments.
We believe that implementation of SEA and CIA studies and their submission to IUCN\WHC for review should remain a strongly required precondition to approval and funding of any dam\reservoir\water diversion project in the Lake Baikal Basin.
All that said, situation with implementation of the WHC decisions on Lake Baikal in Mongolia is still better, than that in Russia, where this World heritage site is situated.
7. Decisions focusing on responsibilities of the Russian Federation:
We are also deeply concerned with failure of the Russian Federation to implement World Heritage committee (WHC) decisions and, especially, by steps taken in direct violation of those decisions.
In 2017 the WHC:
- urged the State Party of Russia to elaborate an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of potential impacts of existing water use and management regulations on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and not to introduce any further changes in the regulations until their effects on the property are fully understood;
- and reiterated its request to the State Party to develop a property-wide ecological monitoring system in order to identify the scale and causes of such changes and the responses required to preserve the ecological integrity of the property;
None of these decisions have been observed\implemented.
8. Irresponsible hydropower management leads to wider fluctuation of lake levels
On December 27, 2017 the Government of Russia issued Decree # 1667[12], which extended for 3 years (2018-2020) the allowable range of fluctuations for the Lake Baikal water level from 1 meter to 2.3 meters. The extension is necessary to sustain "water-heat-energy-supply to population and industry" and primarily serves the interest of En+Group (and their local subsidiary Irkutskenergo) - company that owns both hydropower plants on Angara River and coal-fired thermal power plants in the area, which require water for cooling .
Our preliminary calculations show, that if the En+Group has had implemented adaptation measures (e.g. reconstruction of water-supply intakes from Angara River so they could function during lower river discharge , etc.) the outflow through Irkutsk HPP from the Lake could be reduced from current 1300 m3/sec to 600-1000 m3/sec and that would prevent the Lake Baikal from decreasing below the minimal allowable level determined in 2001 by Governmental Decree #234. Lowering the Lake level exacerbates current ecological crisis in near-shore ecosystems of Lake Baikal World Heritage site and negatively affects livelihoods of local population, which leads to public protests and demands to remove other stringent environmental limitations associated with the heritage site. The RwB, Greenpeace, WWF and dozens of other environmental groups commented in writing on the draft Decree # 1667 and warned the government against issuing it, but none of those opinions were taken into consideration.
The RwB and Greenpeace in addition challenged the En+Group during its IPO in London in November 2017 which led to a notable line in the IPO Prospectus that the Group will "mitigate and prevent the negative environmental impact of its hydro power plants on Lake Baikal"[13]. However, in practice the company has taken no measures, but instead sponsored extensive propaganda campaign in Russian press to blackmail and silence opponents. Besides, recent listing of the En+Group and its owner Oleg Deripaska by the US Treasury for economic sanctions, further reduced opportunities for negotiating more rational water management with the company, for it now faces quite different key challenges and may be less inclined to pay attention to environmental obligations.
As far as we can read the 2017 State of Conservation Report submitted by Russia in 2018 does not even mention issuance of the Decree # 1667, although it happened in 2017.
9. Denial to undertake the EIA of existing water use and management regulations.
The State of conservation report submitted by Russia openly denies necessity to subject current or future water management regime to an EIA, using very questionable arguments to justify this statement.
It refers to the water-management research (R&D 15-01) commissioned by the Federal Agency for Water Resources in September 2015 to justify change in water level regulation. Ever since this research was criticized for its biased approach and for complete absence of any valid ecological\biological components. Report on research results was classified and not open to public or expert comment.
However, from public presentations of the outcomes of the research R&D 15-01 we know for sure that among the key findings of this research were: A) Acknowledgement of the fact that Russian agencies presently do not have information about scientifically valid environmental requirements for water level regulation in Lake Baikal and the monitoring system needed to verify any such requirement is not in place. B) Recognition of a pressing need to conduct complex research to be able forecast the environmental status of water and coastal ecosystems and develop conservation requirements for Lake Baikal based on outcomes of such research[14].
State of conservation report submitted by Russia directly contradicts both findings of the R&D 15-01 listed above.
Statement that such "assessment" can be called "partially implemented EIA" is grossly inaccurate even by standards of Russian EIA Guidelines, let alone WHC\IUCN EA Guidance. EIA is well defined process with clear requirements to baseline information, assessment of impacts, use of precautionary principle, analysis of alternatives, disclosure of draft report and mandatory meaningful public consultations. None of this was sufficiently observed in 2015 R&D.
Russia's SoC Report alludes to Water Resources Management Rules for the Irkutsk Reservoir issued in 1988, which makes us fear that EIA and Environmental flow assessment and management is being substituted by revival of those this outdated water-management rules. New draft regulation mentioned in text were repeatedly dismissed in 2013-14 due to failure to incorporate environmental and social concerns into those rules.
Statement that "completion of the EIA in its entirety does not seem appropriate" is not supported by valid evidence and anyway contradicts the Russia's obligations under the Convention. Besides, it implicitly suggests that impacts on the OUV from existing hydropower should not be part of the transboundary SEA either, without which objective SEA would be virtually impossible.
Therefore, in the light of new Decree #1667, it is extremely important to conduct full EIA of Lake Baikal water management regime and any draft Water Resources Management Rules for the Irkutsk Reservoir proposed to direct it in future.
10. Poor status of the Lake Baikal monitoring system.
Russia also has failed to develop a property-wide ecological monitoring system in order to identify the scale and causes of negative changes and the responses required to preserve the ecological integrity of the property.
The State of Conservation Report submitted by Russia mechanically lists various not clearly interrelated monitoring projects development of which was funded from the State Budget. It does not explain whether holistic Lake ecosystem monitoring program exists, who implements it and where results could be seen. Continuing problems with Lake Baikal ecological monitoring can be illustrated by just three simple examples.
- Last year the Journal "Nature" published appeal of scientists from Irkutsk University protesting against discontinuation of state funding for monitoring observation of Baikal plankton that has been conducted continuously for 70+ years. The monitoring program was salvaged in 2017 thanks to donation by private foundation, but actual state funding for that has ceased and was not renewed.
- At the President Putin's meeting with Siberian Academy of Sciences on February 8, 2018 the Director of the Irkutsk-based Institute for System Dynamics Igor Bychkov stated: "We ask to focus on Lake Baikal monitoring based on new principles. Unfortunately, we can say that this monitoring largely remains a 19th or even 18th century type of monitoring.[15]" This conversation shows the real overall situation in Lake Baikal monitoring system.
- In Russian 2018 SoC on page 4 there is a passage on "Scientifically ground environmental requirements to the regime of fluctuations in the level of the Irkutsk reservoir derived from monitoring information". To the best of our knowledge there is NO special monitoring program that is aimed at relating water level fluctuations to various ecological phenomena of the lake. Therefore all this passage is a disinformation and contains reference to a biased 2015 R&D report commissioned specifically to protect interests of the En+Group, rather than those of Lake Baikal World Heritage site. But as shown above, that very 2015 R&D report in its "conclusions" acknowledged absence of coherent monitoring system covering ecological consequences of water level fluctuation.
11. Reduction in Water Protection Zone and threat of reducing Core Zone of the World Heritage Site and other attempts to weaken protection.
We have additional reasons for deep concern with:
-The Government of Russia issuing on March 26, 2018 a Decree #507-p which more than 10-fold reduces water-protection zone for the Lake Baikal delineated in 2015. Subsequent public discussion has shown that, although the Decree references special research conducted by the Institute of Geography in Irkutsk, in reality new delineation did not follow even those recommendations and likely has been undertaken to open large near-coast areas to development. Besides, massive easing of restrictions is not balanced with state funding and clear timeframe for undertaking necessary mitigation measures. For example, areas now open to construction of waste processing facilities are likely to be left without national funding for such construction, which will inevitably lead to further violations and cover-ups.
-The Government of Buryatia Republic welcomed new easements and its officials[16] allegedly declared that the next objective is reduction of the "Central Ecological Zone" which is the core protected area of the Lake Baikal World Heritage Site.
- The Government of Russia issuing on March 26, 2018 a Decision #328 that makes changes to the "List of activities prohibited in Central Ecological Zone of Baikal Natural Area". It allows basting of rocks in water-protection zone for the purposes of public railroad construction. The new exception is added due to necessity to build additional branches of Baikal-Amur Railroad and possibly Trans-Siberian Railroad. The Decree does not reference results of any SEA\EIA on which such decision could be based.
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Food posting a draft decree intended to open for hunting the Baikal Seal population.( Although there are rumors this may be revoked due to massive public protest).
12. Possible 2018 Decisions
The Rivers without Boundaries Coalition recommends that the World Heritage Committee includes in its 2018 Decisions the following requirements:
For both Russia and Mongolia:
A. Reiterate the request to the States Parties of the Russian Federation and Mongolia to jointly develop a transboundary SEA for any hydropower and water management projects which could potentially affect the property, taking into account any existing and planned projects on the territory of both countries, and requests both States Parties to ensure that the results of such transboundary SEA guide the elaboration of ESIAs of any concrete hydropower and water management projects, including the planned Egiin Gol Hydro project, Shuren hydropower project, Orkhon river diversion project, renewal of the Water Resources Management Rules for the Irkutsk Reservoir, etc ;
For Mongolia:
A. -Welcome the fact that in September 2017 Mongolia cancelled tenders for ESIA and feasibility studies for Orkhon and Shuren dam projects, and ask Mongolia to delay any decisions on specific project planning until results of the basin-wide REA are reviewed and approved. Recommend that Mongolia engage in consultations with the WB and Russia to upgrade the REA to full-fledged SEA.
B. - Reiterate requirement to ensure that the renewed 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 Centre. Request that Mongolia stops process of creation\funding of Egiin Gol Hydro project until all assessments, including SEA, REA and analysis of alternatives are completed and their results reviewed by IUCN\WHC.
C. - Develop an assessment of cumulative impacts of any planned dams and reservoirs in the Selenge river basin that may have an impact on the OUV and integrity of the property, including Egiin Gol Hydro, Shuren and Orkhon projects, and to provide this assessment to the World Heritage Centre,
D. -Not approve any of the projects until the above-mentioned EIAs and assessment of cumulative impacts have been reviewed by the World Heritage Centre and IUCN
Russia:
A. Urge the State Party of Russia to elaborate an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of potential impacts of existing water use and management regulations and planned Water Resources Management Rules for the Irkutsk Reservoir on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, so that their effects on the property are fully understood;
B. Reiterate the request to the State Party to develop a property-wide ecological monitoring system in order to identify the scale and causes of negative ecological changes and the responses required to preserve the ecological integrity of the property;
C. Request the State Party of Russia to subject to EIA and legal analysis the Decree #507-p from
March 26, 2018 on 10-fold decrease of water-protection zone.
For more information contact:
Andrey Petrov (apetrov@greenpeace.org )
[1] On April 15,2018 the level was 455.77 - 23cm below "minimum level" assigned in 2001.
[2] CONSTRUCTION WORK OF 11 POWER PLANTS TO START THIS YEAR. March 1, 2018 https://www.news.mn/?id=272613
[3] Approximately USD 9 million
[5] Decision of State Property Agency#376, September 12, 20017 pcsp.gov.mnfile/1976
[6] Letter from Davasuren in response of 8 NGOs of Human Right Forum of Mongolia. March 5, 2018
[7] On the quest to energy independence. The UB Post. 28 Feb 2018, By T.BAYARBAT https://www.pressreader.com/mongolia/the-ub-post/20180228/281698320239617
[14] Dr. Mikhail Bolgov. Presentation of the Report on Outcomes of the Research R&D 15-01 commissioned by the Federal Agency for Water Resources in September 2015.
[16] e.g. Minister O.A. Magomedova on April 3, 2018 gave such interview on "News of Buryatia" Radio( «Вести Бурятии» от 03 апреля 2018г.)
 
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Озеро Байкал – объект Всемирного природного наследия – в 2013-2015 годах в период экстремального маловодья оказалось в фокусе внимания российской и международной общественности в связи с проблемами влияния на его состояние уже действующих и планируемых гидроэнергетических объектов. Текущее функционирование Ангаро-Енисейского каскада ГЭС тесным образом связано с вопросами регулирования уровня озера, который, в свою очередь, во многом наряду с другими взаимосвязанными антропогенными факторами воздействия, определяет состояние всей его экосистемы. Планируемое сооружение монгольских ГЭС в бассейне реки Селенга также грозит оказать существенное влияние на экосистему Байкала. Портал «Белая книга плотин» задумывался как открытая дискуссионная площадка, где на экспертном уровне могут быть представлены различные проблемные вопросы функционирования плотинных ГЭС, отражающие точки зрения ведомств (например, Минприроды и Минэнерго РФ), бизнеса и структур гражданского общества. Относительно бассейна Байкала накоплен обширный материал об антропогенной трансформации его экосистемы в результате строительства Ангаро-Енисейского каскада ГЭС, активно дискутируются способы снижения антропогенной нагрузки со стороны существующих ГЭС в условиях климатической изменчивости, а также весьма спорные планы строительства ГЭС в Монголии в бассейне Селенги – главного притока Байкала. Эти дискуссии, не законченные к моменту публикации Обзора, наложили свой отпечаток на форму подачи материала, особенно в части, посвященной проектам освоения Селенги. Несмотря на использование только официальных документов, эта часть напоминает лихо закрученный детектив с множеством действующих лиц и исполнителей и, де факто, описывает реальные механизмы принятия без преувеличения судьбоносных решений по большим стройкам в начале 21 века, в том числе в рамках реализации китайской инициативы Шёлкового пути. Полный обзор: Байкал и ГЭС Декабрь 2016. https://solex-un.ru/dams/reviews/baykal-i-ges
Eugene A. Simonov
added an update
The Rivers without Boundaries coalition has carried out a lot of work to ensure protection of Lake Baikal from hydropower\water engineering impacts. Those include:
-planned Egiin Gol, Shuren and Orkhon dams in Selenge river basin,
-and existing Angara River hydropower cascade with uppermost Irkutsk Hydro directly responsible for Lake Baikal water level fluctuation. Regulation of Irkutsk hydro lacks scientific foundation and ecological monitoring.
*As a result of pressure initiated by RwB by mid- 2017 China EximBank loan originally earmarked for construction of the Egiin Gol Hydro by Gezhouba Co. was halted and redistributed to other projects in Mongolia (bridges, transmission lines, etc). Mongolian Government still plans to build this project, but the source of finance is unclear.
*RwB collaborated with the World Heritage Committee, IUCN and Greenpeace drafting assessment reports and supplying with information for decision clauses and in 2017 the 41 Session of the World Heritage Committee issued decisions on Baikal that prescribes comprehensive measures to be taken by Russia and Mongolia. As requested by the RwB the jointly conducted SEA became the key first requirement.
*After complaint initiated by RwB in 2015 the World Bank Inspection Panel (WBIP) put the MINIS Project responsible for planning Shuren and Orkhon dams under 24-month supervision and the RwB at least twice a year prepared comprehensive reports for the WBIP.
Inspection Panel team visited Mongolia and Russia in June 2017 and met with complainants and other potentially affected people who had participated in the consultations, scientific experts, government officials and World Bank staff. The Panel expressed satisfaction that the project made important efforts to properly consult potentially affected people The Panel recognized that the Request for Inspection had placed the project on a positive trajectory, especially through a recognition of the relevance of transboundary issues, and the greater importance given to ensuring meaningful consultations with both Russian and Mongolian stakeholders.
* In 2017 the MINIS Project held public consultations on draft assessment plans at 33 localities in Russia and Mongolia throughout Selenge-Baikal Basin, exactly as the RwB requested. The RwB representatives participated in every event and provided important feedback to the MINIS Project.
See http://www.minis.mn/en/consultation-hub for consultation materials.
* Finally in July 2017 the WBIP decided not to investigate dam planning under WB MINIS Project, because under this pressure it has been completely reshaped and seriously improved. In making this recommendation, the Panel emphasized the need to ensure diligent implementation of the full set of environmental assessment tools that have been identified. The World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved the Panel’s recommendation on July 27, 2017.
* The main substantive change to date is in full restructuring of the WB MINIS Project, which (as we suggested since 2012) will now engage into stand-alone Regional environmental assessment (REA) of overall hydropower\water management of the Lake Baikal Basin and completely postpone any feasibility studies and EIAs for specific dams until that REA is completed and results are discussed. As the RwB requested a year before in September 2017 the MINIS cancelled 4 tenders for planning of specific feasibility studies and ESIAs. So in worst case scenario they still have a chance to come back to studies on specific hydropower projects sometime by 2020 or later. So as a minimum we effectively completely de-risked that project for another 2-3 years.
*However, we also made the focus of the international discussion to shift from ways to reduce dam impacts to a wide search for alternative design of energy systems that does not involve large dams. Such study is granted under the REA and such discussion is now going on between Mongolia and Russia.
*The RwB issued in July 2017 an appeal to the governments of Mongolia and Russia to start joint SEA of Baikal Lake Basin water management issues and provided a concrete proposal on scope, sequence and arrangements for such transboundary SEA.
*Angara River hydropower cascade with uppermost Irkutsk Hydro is owned by the En+Group (aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska), which in November 2017 held an IPO on London Stock Exchange. In October 2017 the RwB sent a letter to the En+ Board Chair Rt Hon. the Lord Barker of Battle.The RwB Coalition warned the En+Group about necessity to disclose its specific environmental risks before the IPO. The RwB and several environmental groups from Mongolia and Russia, including Greenpeace appealed to the London Stock Exchange to draw attention to a potential risks and actual negative impacts of hydropower operation related to the Lake Baikal, a World Heritage Site, which contains one-fifth of the world's un-frozen freshwater and a mind-boggling biodiversity of more than 2500 species of mostly endemic aquatic organisms. Although overall disclosure of environmentalrisks is unsatisfactory, on page 169 the IPO Prospectus the En+Group states that: "The Group WILL adhere to IHA Sustainability Assessment Protocol in order to mitigate and prevent the negative environmental impact of its hydro power plants on Lake Baikal." Further at page 264, where external legal regulations are described it says: "The water level at Baikal is affected by the dams of the Angara HPP cascade. As this is the only river flowing out of the lake, the level of the lake directly depends on the degree of filling of the Angara reservoirs. The slightest fluctuations in the water level in Baikal significantly affect the environmental stability of the Baikal natural territory. Thus, its increase leads to the development of abrasion (destruction of the shores), thus its decrease leads to shallowing of the lake."
So on paper the En+Group did recognize its impact on Lake Baikal and necessity to manage it properly.
* In November-December RwB, Greenpeace and other NGOs were campaigning to convince the Government of Russia to start solving the problem instead of exacerbating it. However, the Government of Russia on Dec 27 issued a Decision #1667 that extends to 2018-2020 inappropriate , scientifically invalid regulation regime for Lake Baikal water level, thus supporting the business interests of the En+Group.
Happy New Year!
 
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Thus, the Egiin Gol Hydro Project is the first and so far the only precedent known to us when a project, declared within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), was stopped by Chinese investors in connection with appeals from local population about its social and environmental risks. The status of Lake Baikal as a World Heritage Site has undoubtedly contributed to the decision not to proceed with dam construction. It is important that major investment projects and schemes of the BRI are subject to early strategic environmental assessments, which allows avoiding incidents similar to those that occurred with the financing of the Egiin Gol hydropower plant. See whole "Bottom-Up" book at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320943712_Silk_Road_Bottom-Up_Regional_voices_on_the_Belt_and_Road_Initiative?_iepl%5BviewId%5D=B8cW0Iex0wkNlgLI6LGqscZZ&_iepl%5BprofilePublicationItemVariant%5D=default&_iepl%5Bcontexts%5D%5B0%5D=prfpi&_iepl%5BtargetEntityId%5D=PB%3A320943712&_iepl%5BinteractionType%5D=publicationTitle
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Proceedings of the 2016 World Heritage Watch Conference (published in 2017) include our contribution on the Strategic environmental assessment of the Lake Baikal management.
Eugene A. Simonov
added 2 research items
This paper analyzes consequences of World Heritage Committee decisions, ways in which civil society and other actors behaved after the decisions taken, and finally presents vision for the most important steps for preventing harm and better management of Lake Baikal to be taken in 2016. In 2015 WHC requested Russia and Mongolia to produce in cooperation a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to analyze and improve water management in Baikal Basin and lake ecosystem conservation in the light of hydropower development plans. In April 2016 RwB attended consultations at Russian Ministry of Natural Resources, made a presentation emphasizing utility of this tool and initiated fruitful discussion on SEA prospects. Lack of cooperation from Mongolia's side and postponed ratification of Espoo Convention by Russia were cited by officials as obstacles to initiating SEA. In a similar private discussion the WB Management officials expressed doubt that either Mongolia or Russia have capacity to organize valid SEA process. At 39th Session RwB representative discussed with World Heritage Center officials that special UNESCO effort is needed to initiate and steer SEA as well as implementation of all other decisions and learned that a meeting between Russian and Mongolian ambassadors to UNESCO would be a necessary starting point of the process. RwB also inquired whether UNESCO could form an International Advisory Body to support and inform such SEA, including analysis of similar lake management situations elsewhere (the Alps, the Great Lakes of North America, Lake Turkana, etc). http://www.world-heritage-watch.org/index.php/de/aktivitaeten/internationale-konferenz/istanbul-conference-2016
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Mongolia plans massive development of hydropower and water-transfer facilities in the basin of Lake Baikal. There are plans for the Egiin Gol Hydro, the Shuren Hydro and the Orkhon-Gobi Hydro\Water-transfer complex, with feasibility studies for the latter two being supported by the MINIS Project under a World Bank loan. Such projects have been listed as a number-one mitigation measure under Mongolia’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) under the Paris Agreement, with more than $600 million of “climate finance” requested from the global community to assist in its implementation. Resolutions from several public consultations consultations on two dam projects held in 2017 contain explicit requirements to divide the REA and ESIA into separate consecutive studies done by different consultants Resolutions from several consultations contain explicit requirements to divide the REA and ESIA into separate consecutive studies done by different consultants with sufficient funding and appropriate composition of consultant teams. People emphasized that a wide consideration of alternatives should help the Mongolian side to determine other ways to develop their energy and water resources. At the final consultation event people requested that the MINIS Project directly address the secretariats of relevant conventions.
Eugene A. Simonov
added a research item
Lake Baikal World Heritage Site water resource management in the light of hydropower development. pp.72-74 in Doempke, Stephan (ed.)ю The UNESCO World Heritage and the Role of Civil Society. Proceedings of the International Conference, Bonn 2015. р 230 pages, with 137 photos and 54 graphics and maps Published by World Heritage Watch e.V. Berlin 2016 Full volume uploaded