Sino-Russian cooperation in Amur biodiversity conservation
Russian delegation was lead by Vsevolod Stepanitsky, the Head of Department of Protected Areas (and former WWF-Russia employee!!!), while China delegation was headed by Wan Ben Tai – the Head of Department of Ecology of SEPA. Many leading partners of WWF-Russia projects were entrusted by Russian side to conduct these negotiations, including Amur-Heilong GEF Project National Coordinator Tatiana Minaeva, Vice-head of Far East branch of Federal Controls Service on Natural Resources Vladimir Andronov, Vice-director of Daursky Zapovednik Oleg Goroshko, director of Khankaisky Zapovednik Yuri Sushitsky. WWF consultant on Amur-Heilong river basin Eugene Simonov was also invited by Russian Government to assist this team.
China team included representatives of SEPA, Forest Service, Ministry of Agriculture, Reform Commission, key regional agencies.
Negotiations were quite agitated but very fruitful. Partners developed rather ambitious working plan for coming year. Plan includes exchange of basic information on legislation on biodiversity conservation and protected areas, joint workshop on these issues, joint field inspection of one of transboundary protected areas, etc.
From the point of view of WWF work in the region this plan includes several important activities, which were earlier assisted by WWF and may benefit from such assistance in the future:
- Develop scientific feasibility study for transboundary protected areas network in Amur River Basin –(Green Belt of Amur-Heilong).
- Consider development of specific conservation action plans for endangered species
- Joint strategic research on basin-wide approach to conservation of Amur River wetlands.
- Develop proposal for feasinility study on expanding Dauria international Protected Area in Upper Argun/Eerguna River Valley.
Russian side also insisted on foundation of international field station for bird monitoring in Dauria international nature reserve, and requested help of Chinese side, which established several hundred domestic bird monitoring stations in last decade.
Russian delegation expressed deep concern regarding possible negative impacts on transboundary biodiversity that might result from a water transfer project that is planned for Hailar/ Argun river in Inner Mongolia and asked China side to undertake decisive measures to assess and avoid such consequences.
Many questions were not considered in the prepared work plan, since they are already part of some other agreements, but consensus was reached that both sides will take specific steps to solve them in near future. This relates to preparing new agreement for trilateral Dauria international Protected Area in Amur headwaters, to quick establishment of Khanka lake International Nature Reserve Commission, to coordinated participation in Ramsar and Biodiversity Conventions, to development of Sino-Russian Treaty on Protection and Monitoring of Migratory birds and their key habitats, and some other issues.
Both sides agreed that long mutual learning process lies ahead, since previously there was no formal communication on such a wide array of biodiversity –related questions. China side already established a coordination unit to support implementation of the workplan in Protected Areas Division of Ecological Department of SEPA. Russian side promised to establish similar responsible unit within two weeks.
According to WWF expert Eugene Simonov, who participated in the meeting: “ This was only the beginning, and if high obligations taken on in the first year are fulfilled by mid 2008, we may see real breakthrough in how two sides approach biodiversity conservation in border areas. However fulfilling these obligations will require very intensive communication process, and enlisting support of many institutions and foundations. Hope that WWF and its Amur-Heilong River Program would be able to use effectively its own unique capacity in China and Russia to assist this bilateral work. So far at the meeting participants discussed questions looking at maps from WWF Amur-Heilong database, since these are best available maps maps on cross-border biodiversity in Amur Basin. ”