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Премия рунета 2017

The Amazar River in Zabaikalsky province suffers from dam construction

22 march 2018
On World Water Day, March 22, WWF Russia together with Greenpeace Russia and the International Coalition “Rivers without Boundaries” draw public attention to the unenviable fate of one of the Amur River tributaries, the Amazar River in Zabaikalsky province.

In March, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange and ZJR Concern (Zoje Resources Co) decided to terminate all procedures for non-public offering of shares started in 2015 for purchasing and construction of the Amazar Pulp and Saw Mill Project, which is extremely dangerous for wildlife and local people.

The Amazar River is another major tributary of the Amur River after the confluence of rivers Shilka and Argun. It plays an important role in preserving the Amur ecosystem. This is the place of the maximum concentration of salmon fish species in Zabaikalye such as taimen, which is included into the International Red List of the IUCN and the Red List of Zabaikalsky province. 5 of 7 large settlements of the Mogochensky district are located along the Amazar River, and the surrounding forests are a place of traditional forest use of taiga settlers and a potential raw material base for the forest industry development.

These natural resources - the river and forests, which vitally important for the life and development of the whole region, have been attracting the business from China for almost 20 years. The Amazar Pulp and Saw Mill Project (Polyarnaya) is a project with 100% Chinese investments on harvesting of more than 2 million  m³ of timber per year, the construction of sawmills and the production of cheap unbleached pulp. The project was launched by the People's Government of Heilongjiang Province in 1999 to compensate for the shortage of timber and its processing products, arising from environmental bans on industrial cutting in all natural forests of China. The first stone was laid by the governors of the bordering provinces in 2005, and the launch was postponed from 2010 to 2019. The Amazar project is the main instrument for lobbying the creation of Pokrovka-Loguhe border crossing deep in taiga leading to the strategically important Trans-Siberian region.

In 2013, WWF with the participation of experts from public environmental organizations - the International Coalition “Rivers without Boundaries”, the Institute of Natural Resources, Ecology and Cryology, Daursky Nature Reserve and the AmurSEU NGO organized an independent project examination. It revealed that the project requires radical changes in the water use scheme, timber volumes and production technologies. However, despite the demands of local people and ecologists, the dam on the Amazar River was built without taking into account these recommendations.

“WWF Russia suggests to consider the alternative ways of water supply to the Amazar Pulp and Saw Mill Project due to the fact that the dam on the Amazar River blocks the migration routes of fish and was built with serious violations,” says Peter Osipov, director of WWF-Russia Amur branch. - The Amazar Pulp and Saw Mill Project has more negative consequences than positive ones. The construction of the plant was launched simultaneously at several sites in 2013 - from the construction of the dam, industrial buildings and a working village. At present, the dam is ready almost by 90%. Huge areas of forests in Mogochinsky district of Zabaikalye were allocated to provide the plant with raw materials. As a result, about 2 million hectares of forest land are under threat of logging, and local people are risking to lose the fish and fur resources. Moreover, forest lease in favor of the Chinese enterprise blocked the takeover of the upper Amur under protection. So, it took more than two and a half years to create the Verkhneamursky (Upper-Amur) Wildlife Refuge, however despite the offers of local dwellers, large areas of forests in the interfluve of Shilka and Argun were not included in its territory.”

In May 2017, the Environmental Paper Network and 8 other organizations have sent a letter expressing concerns to the Shenzhen Stock and the ZJR. The letter explained the concerns of civil society caused by the ongoing construction of the Amazar Complex in areas where there is neither a raw material nor a social base for it.

It seems that this time ecologists have been heard by businessmen. The management of the Stock Exchange started an investigation, and in March 2018 the Board of Directors of the ZJR (Shenzhen Stock Exchange No. 002021) decided to completely stop all transactions started for the purpose of a non-public offering of shares on the Shenzhen Exchange and the withdrawal of an application.

Supporting this decision, Greenpeace Russia and the International Coalition "Rivers without Boundaries" urge the government of Zabaikalsky province, the Development Bank of China and the Heilongjiang-Xingbang Company not to take hasty actions to find other sources of financing for the Amazar Complex and the Pokrovka-Loguhe border crossing, and finally proceed to a comprehensive assessment of the risks and long-term viability of the project and consideration of alternative options for the development of the economy of Zabaikalsky province.

The government of Zabaikalsky province and the owners of Polyarnaya consistently refuse to discuss the problems with the public and are striving for the launch of the Amazar Complex at any cost, asking for support from federal authorities. Now they are trying to get investments from Russian-Chinese funds. Public organizations are calling to evaluate alternatives to destructive project decisions and also hope to be heard by the central government.

For additional information please contact
Director of WWF-Russia Amur branch