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Премия рунета 2017

The Bureya River landslide: the consequences and environmental risks

14 march 2019
On the International Day of Action against Dams to protect rivers, water and life, WWF Russia proposes to monitor water quality and to assess ecosystem responses after the elimination of the landslide on the Bureya River.

Last December, a landslide came down on the Bureya River in the Khabarovsky province. Its volume was so huge that it blocked the mainstream: according to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the landslide volume was about 34 million cubic meters, with about 4 million cubic meters located above the surface of the water. The blockage occurred upstream of the Bureiskaya HPP, dividing the reservoir and limiting the water flow.

The Internet was filled with guesses that the blockage happened due to the fall of a meteorite. Scientists named three reasons why a landslide could have happened, and they turned out to be quite earthly. The first is an extremely steep slope of the hill and the high fragility of the rock. The second is a rift in the rock, which could lead to the movement of rocks. The third is a narrow valley of the river, which was filled with water that penetrated into the cracks of the hills and provoked a landslide.

Regardless of the reason, this is the largest landslide in the country in recent years. A third dam was suddenly formed on the Bureya River, which already has two dams - Bureiskaya and Nizhne-Bureiskaya. Nature has created a natural dam with a length of 740 meters, a width of up to 500 meters and a height of up to 60 meters. If the blockage remained in the river, water would accumulate above it, forming a new reservoir. Due to the fact that the new "dam" blocked the water course, there was a threat of flooding of settlements during the rising water levels in spring and summer. In order to avoid this, Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed to clear the riverbed by conducting blasting operations. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation conducted this complex operation and on February 12 reported on the restoration of the flow in the mainstream of the Bureya River. Now it’s important to monitor the situation and analyze the environmental risks after the elimination of a landslide.

Comments Oxana Nikitina, WWF Russia project coordinator for freshwater ecosystems conservation: “Since the blasting works were carried out directly in the river, it affects the state and life processes of nearby ecosystems, both freshwater and terrestrial. Now there is little water in Bureya, and the river itself is under ice and snow. But with increasing water levels in the river, the reservoir will receive a large amount of suspended matter, which contains explosives. These substances can have a toxic effect and lead to a decrease in water quality. In turn, this will negatively affect the life of ecosystems and their inhabitants.”
“This case is the first of its kind and the lesson should be learned. In this situation, it is extremely important to monitor the quality of water, taking and analyzing samples, studying the response of living organisms to such an intervention. Another area of ​​work is to study the terrain to assess the possibility of new landslides. It is necessary to take preventive measures in advance,” comments Peter Osipov, director of WWF Russia Amur branch.
For additional information please contact
Director of WWF-Russia Amur branch