‘Parched’ Chinese city plans to pump water from Russian lake via 1,000km pipeline

Urban planners in Lanzhou have drawn up proposals to pipe water into the chronically dry region from Siberia’s Lake Baikal.

Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal is the deepest freshwater lake on earth. Photograph: Kirill Shipitsin/TASS

China is reportedly considering plans to build a 1,000km (620 mile) pipeline to pump water all the way from Siberia to its drought-stricken northwest.

According to reports in the Chinese media, urban planners in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, have drawn up proposals to pipe water into the chronically parched region from Russia’s Lake Baikal, the deepest freshwater lake on earth.

Li Luoli, an academic who is one of the plan’s cheerleaders, claimed the mega-project – roughly the equivalent of pumping water from Lake Como to London – was both theoretically feasible and “certainly beneficial” to China.

“Once the technical issues are resolved, diplomats should sit down and talk to each other about how each party would benefit from such international cooperation,” said Li, the vice president of the China Society of Economic Reform, a state-run think tank.

In a report this week the state-run Global Times said the pipeline would quench the “desperate thirst” of a province that saw just 380mm of rain last year.

It would begin at the southwestern tip of the 600km-long Russian lake and run about 1,000km, across Mongolia, to Gansu’s capital through the Hexi corridor, a desert region near the westernmost tip of the Great Wall of China.

The project would boost both Gansu’s “ecological environment” and its economy which the newspaper said had been severely hampered by the lack of water.

The drastic plan underscores the severity of the water crisis facing Beijing.

China has 20% of the world’s population but just 7% of its fresh water with the north, in particular, facing a calamitous shortage thanks to urbanisation, over-use, wastage and pollution.

Gansu saw just 380mm of rain last year. Photograph: The Washington Post/Getty Images

In 2005 China’s former minister of water resources, Wang Shucheng, warned that by 2020 many northern cities, including the capital, might run out of water.

Plans to pipe in Siberian water, which are likely to alarm conservationists, are not the first of their kind.

Last year Russia’s agriculture minister, Alexander Tkachev, suggested pumping water across Kazakhstan to Xinjiang, another dry northwestern region, but only “under the condition of full compliance with the interests of Russia, including environmental”.

Citing scientists in Siberia, Russia’s state news agency Tass said “fresh water supplies in China could be a promising area of Russia exports”.

“Water is the same resource as oil, gas, gold, and sooner or later we will start to sell it,” Stepan Svartsev, an academic from Tomsk state university was quoted as saying: “Our country has very large reserves and certain volumes could be sold.”

Nor would the pipeline represent China’s first foray into the world of mega-hydro-projects.

In 2014 it inaugurated one of the biggest engineering feats in history, the £48bn South-North Water Diversion, a huge web of canals and reservoirs built to shift trillions of gallons of water each year from southern China to its water-deprived north.

The project, first conceived by Mao but only approved in 2002, was plagued by criticism of its massive price-tag and impact on nature and people, hundreds of thousands of whom were forced from their homes as a result.

Perhaps the greater hurdle facing the Siberia-Gansu pipeline is convincing Russia to part with its water. Wang Hao, head of the China institute of water resources and hydro-power research, told the Global Times it would hinge on “political and diplomatic issues”.

Li, the academic, conceded more research was needed but said action was needed to address China’s water shortage.

“The government should attach great importance to water resources of which there is a severe scarcity … and for which there are no alternatives.”

Additional reporting by Wang Zhen

This entry was posted in China - Russia relationship, Môi trường - Environment, Quản lý nước - water management and tagged , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage dotchuoinon.com on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development (cvdvn.net). I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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