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China excludes a hydropower plant in the basin of Lake Baikal from the "Silk Road" program

In the autumn of 2015, the Egiin-gol power plant was named among the five largest projects of the Sino-Mongolian cooperation on the Silk Road program, and China allocated a $1 billion soft loan to it. Thus, Mongolia and China actually have refused to implement the decisions of the 39th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee that prescribe to assess and submit to the World Heritage Center the assessment of individual and cumulative impacts on the Baikal site of the World Natural Heritage of the planned Mongolian hydroelectric power stations on the Eg, Orkhon and Selenga before approving any of these projects.

 

After these discussions, Greenpeace Russia and other international environmental organizations, scientists and local residents have addressed the Chinese and Mongolian sponsors of the project. Residents from Kabansky district, who in February 2016 have organized hearings on Hydro Power Plant (HPP) projects in the catchment area of the Lake Baikal and wrote to the Government of Mongolia, the Chinese Eximbank and a number of Chinese departments about need to fulfill obligations under the World Heritage Convention prohibiting damage to heritage monuments in other countries.

The protests campaign was not impressed by the Mongolian authorities, but it affected the Chinese authorities. By April 2016, the loan was frozen "until the completion of all estimates," the Chinese firm Gezhouba turned aside the construction work, and now Mongolian sources claim that the funds have already been redirected for other purposes.

Therefore, at the new hearings in Kabansk on March 23, 2017, the participants decided to express gratitude to the Chinese side for their understanding. At the end of April, a new letter was sent to Eximbank and the Chinese authorities by the Kabansk Municipality: "Your actions showed not only the commitment to compliance with China's international conventions, but also a deep understanding of the risks for the local population associated with uncoordinated use of the water resources of the transboundary basins ... In the light of the continuing non-compliance of the Mongolian side with the requirements of international conventions and treaties, we ask you to refrain from financing the creation of the people in future Former hydro power plants in the catchment area of the Lake Baikal".

Thus, the Egijn gol HPP is the first and so far the only precedent known to us when the project, declared within the Economic belt of the Silk Road, was stopped by Chinese investors in connection with appeals about its social and environmental risks, which undoubtedly contributed to the status of Lake Baikal as a World Heritage Site. It is important that major investment projects on the Silk Road become the subject of an early strategic environmental assessment, which allows avoiding incidents similar to those that occurred with the financing of the Eghinegol hydropower plant.

Recall that the second round of public hearings on Mongolian hydroelectric power stations ended in the Irkutsk region last week. On May 16, the hearings were held in Slyudyanka (May 17), in the Elantsy (May 18) and in the Irkutsk. Representatives of the "Buryat regional Union for Lake Baikal" (member of Russian Social Ecological Union) took an active part in all past public discussions.

More about EU's demands for openness and social and environmental responsibility of Chinese projects in the Eurasian countries: http://cn.ambafrance.org

Buryat Regional Union for Lake Baikal/Russian Social Ecological Union

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