Information on Dam Construction in a Russian Nationalpark
on the Belaya River state November 1999
translated by Alfred Olfert, ERN responsible
for collaboration with Eastern Europe and Eurasia documents
by Greenpeace Russia, are annexed on page 2
In cooperation with:
Collaboration Centreof the"Volga - Ural Network"
Russian Rivers Network
Help the River Volga
Dam Construction in a
Russian Nationalpark on the Belaya River
The wildest and most untouched stretch
of the Belaya River indangered
Regulation of the Belaya River
will show effects at the alluvial plain downstream.
The idea of the projects has been
existing for several years
Main official arguments in
favour of the Dam
Some disapproval from
the rational point of view
The construction of the
"Yumagusinsky Dam" is violating the current legislation
The cascade of dams - a
Construction work is being
continued in spite of illigality
Page 2 - annexes
Information on Dam
Construction in a Russian Nationalpark on the Belaya River
According to the October 1st, 1998 decision of the ministers
cabinet of the Republic of Bashkiria (Russia) NR 5-40r the planning and
exploration for the Yumagusinsky (Ishtungansky) Dam have begun.
This huge reservoir will flood natural areas of all European
importance, will cause big danger for the downstream laying municipalities
but will solve the actually allegedly existing problems of water supply
only to a certain extend.
The Prasident of the Republic of Bashkortostan M. G.
Rahimow has ordered the administration and the scientific planning administrations
to complete the preparations within a limited time frame and to start the
construction work. He considers the project to be one of the most important
for the next time.
At the moment the construction of the Yumagusinsky (Ishtungansky)
Dam is underway at full speed.
The project will destroy the wildest
and most untouched stretch of the Belaya River
This territory is one of the most valuable natural areas
not only in Russia but in all of Europe. Here you find the National Park
"Bashkiria" and the Natural Reserve "Shulgun Tash". The territory is further
recognised as a "Globally Important Bird Area" and was even proposed for
the UNESCO "Natural Word Heritage Area" list as the "Bashkirian Ural" (this
application was rejected).
Some basic characteristics of the Belaya valley and the
surrounding areas along the affected stretch of 150km between the village
Kutanowo to the village Werhnebikkuzino:
Considerable sections of old forests has remained. Woods
along the river are so called water protection forests and have not been
harvested/cleared for a long period of time. Most likely this is the reason
for the high level of the developed biodiversity.
1.At adjacent territories you find the heart of the Bashkirian
wild bee population. This is the only place word-wide where the ancient
bee keeping method has survived.
2.Here you find the densest population of the falcon Falco
peregrinus all over Europe - pairs sit every 0,5 to 1,5 km, which besides
is the biggest brooding population all over Europe - counting 60 pairs
(1% of the entire European population).
3.Here brood about 130 pairs of the eagle-owl (Bubo bubo)
(1% of the entire European population and at the same time the strongest
population of this owl in Europe) with a Europe-wide unprecedented density
of 10 to 16 pairs par 100 km².
4.Here are concentrated the biggest brooding groups of
the Aquila chrysaetos in the European part of Russia, and besides
about 20 pairs of Circaetus gallicus, about 15 pairs of the Pandion haliaetus,
being at the same time the strongest grouping of this species in the Ural
mountains. All this species are registered in the Red Book of Russia.
5.Here brood globally rare species registered by the
Red Books of IUCN and Russia Haliaeetus albicilla, Aquila heliaca, Aquila
clanga, Circus macrourus Falco naumanni (the last being on the brink of
become extinct in the European part of Russia).
6.Only here hibernate the local population of the Hucho
taimen and you find a concentration of more than 100 bears (Ursus arctos)
in the dens. Here is developed a large abundance of chalky caves which
in winters are crowded by the third of the entire bat population of the
southern Ural counting 7 species.
To construct the cascade of dams would mean the destruction
of the habitat for the said and several thousand further species.
Old forests would be cleared off or flooded (as experienced in the case
of the Nugushsky Dam). Therefore the hydrological regime and the humidity
at all will change in an unforeseeable way. Consequences will turn out
by heavily affecting the Bashkirian wild bee population, the population
of the Hucho taimen will die out, populations of the brook trout will be
This list of animals and sights that will be lost for
the mankind can be continued. For a long and narrow valley is a rather
important component of the ecosystem. Its flooding would be a too high
price fo4r achieving a rather doubtful goal .
Regulation of the Belaya River
will show effects at the alluvial plain downstream.
The wetland complexes further downstream are also of
great importance. Here is the habitat of the Corncrake (Red Book IUCN)
- not less than 1 000 pairs , Oystercatcher (Red Book of RF) - about 200
to 3000 pairs, Spotted eagle (Red Books of IUCN and RF)- 6 pairs, Common
crane, as well there are to be found large colonies of gulls and grebes
(some of the species are even registered by the Red Book of RB). The absence
of continual and large high water events will cause a drying up of the
alluvial valley and therefore a transformation of the wetlands. This will
lead to a further loss in numbers and at some places to a vanish of Corncrake,
Spotted eagle, Common crane and bird colonies living along river banks
in a large area.
The rising of the average water level in the River by
at least 5cm will flood suiting brooding places for the Oystercatcher and
this species will vanish, too.
The idea of a dam in the middle
course of the Belaya River has been existing for more than one decade.
Most likely this idea was born in the mid 70ies
when a project named "Ishtungansky Dam" was prepared and considerable resources
where spent at the erection of the workers village "Yumagusino",
when several quarries where laid out and the construction work had begun.
At that time it was planned to create one reservoir with a capacity of
3km³ and an expanse of more that 150 km². The villages Ishtunganovo,
Werhnebikkusino and others where to be flooded. But a strong public resistance
and a negative assess from the state authorities had stopped this ridiculous
But now, in summer of 1998, Bashkiria has returned to
August 28th the President of the Republic of Bashkortostan
has visited the Kugarchinsky region to acquaint with the state at the construction
site of the Ishtungansky dam “-Here was originally planned a big building
scheme, that was stopped in the years 1990 to 91- he said - If that would
not have happened we now would have a wonderful reservoir. ... Now we have
looked where we can continue the construction work... In Spring we will
start. ... In the course of 2 to 3 years the construction will be finished...
This will be a whole complex of hydro plants that will include 3 hydro
(News Paper of the Maleuzovsky region "Put Oktjabrja"
Nr.107-108 September, 1st 1998)
Main official arguments
in favour of the construction of the Yumagusinsky Dam
The official version talks about an aggravated problem
of water deficit in the region - especially in periods of low water levels,
which disturbs the function of the pump stations along the river bank.
It is assumed that the solution to this problem shell
be a cascade of three reservoirs at the Belaya River, being able to solve
up to 70% of the existing problems. All together the three dams will store
up about 2km³ of high water outlet and gradually release the stock
during low water periods raising the water level in the river and thus
providing the downstream pump stations with water. Besides the integrated
hydropower units will generate estimated 127 million kWh annually.
Some disapproval from
the rational point of view
Here an excerpt from the explanation notes to the project
"First objects of the preparation period of the construction of the Ishtungansky
Dam at the Belaya River in the Autonomous Socialistic Republic of Bashkiria"
(by YushGiProVodHoz, 1993):
"Choosing the site of a possible dam construction five
alternatives where reviewed: the narrownesses of Hudajberdinsky, Ishtungansky,
Akavasovsky, Kusnecovsky and Akbulatovsky, as well the possibility of building
a cascade of several small objects in the area of the settlement Kuznecovo
and the village Akbulatovo was considered...
The Akavasovsky, Kusnecovsky and Akbulatovsky narrownesses
where rejected because of difficulties in means of access, the necessity
of taking measures against foreseeable processes on the chalky formation
and the protection of a unique stalactite cave from being flooded."
All new is the well forgotten old - as a Russian proverb
says. At the moment in the context of the planned cascade of three reservoirs
again exactly the above mentioned three narrownesses are being discussed.
Those three that have been rejected even according to the rather antiquated
guidelines of the at that time responsible authority "Minvodhoz" and recognized
to be even more barbaric and less effective than the "Ishtunganovsky Dam".
But originally it was exactly the "Ishtunganovsky Dam" to be disapproved
because of ecological reasons - this is admitted even by the Bashkirian
Really it is not the electric power that makes the project
necessary - in the period of economic decline it is rather unlikely that
the investments would pay for themselves. Thus the main reason is the regulation
of the outlet regime of the river.
The urgency of the water supply problem for the Sterlitamak
agglomeration in the period of economic decline arouses certain doubts.
For example (according to the data delivered by the State Water Register
in 1997) - non of the cities said to be so much suffering from water shortage
has explored the limits of water delivery. The city of Sterlitamak has
used 128,81 million km³ of the approved 152,73.
It also causes doubts that the problem of water pollution
can be solved by constructing the "Yumagusinsky Dam". It would be much
more sensible to invest this huge resources into the inauguration of water
treatment plants. The water discharged into the Belaya River are
all not sufficiently treated, 30% of them being not treated at all (Water
Register 1997). Besides of that the upstream situated city of Belolipetsk
is discharging per year about 33 km³ of untreated waste water into
the river - this would be enough to fill up all three planned reservoirs
16,5 times annually. This water (again according to the State Water Register
1997) contains 246,78t of nitrates, 16,30t of phosphorus in general, 18,57t
of iron, 0,73t of zinc, 0,70t of nickel, 28,61t of manganese and a lot
of other substances.
The reservoirs will become odd mud pits for the companies
of Belolipetsk. In the period of low water discharge from the reservoirs
many polluting substances will concentrate in the stored water to be than
released downstream during low water periods. This way will be solved the
water supply of the cities situated further downstream like Sterlitamak,
Salavat, Ishimbaj, Melejs.
The fight against the floods will hardly be successful
since the capacity of the reservoirs will not be enough to hold back at
least one tenth of the annual high water and annual let throughs will be
necessary any way.
The construction of
the "Yumagusinsky Dam" and in general the beginning of planning process
without a decision of the Federal level is violating the current legislation
of the Russian Federation (RF) and the Republic of Baschkortostan (RB):
In particular are violated: The Water code (RF) (page
36), the Constitution (RF) , the Agricultural code (RF) (page 90), the
"Environmantal Protection Law" (RF) (page 60, page 61 §5, page 63
§3, page 65) and the Ecological code (RB), the Law "About the Especially
Protected Areas" (page 9, page 15 §2 b, c), the Law "About Living
Creatures" (RF) (page 20, page 24), the Forestry code (RF) (page 63), the
Law "About the Ecological Assessment” (page 11). Also the decision of the
Ministers Cabinet of the Republic of Bashkortostan NR 5-40r from October,
1st 1998 and the resolution of the Ministers Cabinet of the Republic of
Bashkortostan NR 293 from December, 21st 1998 are violating current Russian
legislation. (list to be continued - see annexes)
The cascade of dams will be a time bomb
due to the complicated geological structure, the relief and the hydrological
regime of the region.
Here are developed chalky formations. This is underlined
by the occurrence of the world known stalactite cave "Kytyk Sumgan" and
others (by the way, these are as well in danger of being flooded). Uncountable
crevices, rips and caves run through the rocky slopes that restrict the
valley of the Belaya river.
Following the raising of the water level in the reservoirs
- in the lower one up to 50 to 60m - the ground water level will
raise as well. During low water the water level will annually drop by 40
to 50m to the minimum mark. This will have heavy impacts. It is as well
possible that water will seep through at the sides of the dam using crevices
and rips in the rock. But in any case washing out processes in the chalky
formations will be intensified, unforeseeably will change the pressure
and flow of groundwater. Likely are caving ins of cavities in the rocky
formations, the sliding of geological layers and other effects - all together
that means that the dam cascade may cause micro earthquakes. The maximal
water level in the dam under construction is 10 m higher that that of the
"Nugushsky Dam" 10 km further to the north - a part of the water may be
The hydrological regime of mountain waters like it is
the Belaya river are unforeseeable and complicated. A low water level after
a dryness can change to a high water caused by heavy rains within days
or even hours. This way in 1994 the small Tirljansky reservoir on a tributary
broke and even that rather small occurrence has claimed human lives.
It is easy to imagine what would happen if the Yumagusisky
Dam breakes and a flood wave with the height of an 8 floors high-rise goes
down onto further downstream situated villages and towns: The estimations
for the flood wave have showed that it will reach the city of Sterlatamak
within 26 to 29 hours, all together 84 villages and towns would be affected
("Environmental Impact Estimation of the Yumagusinsky Dam", page 62, Ufa
The risks of a dam break is unforeseeable high. This
is as well admitted by the planner groop of the dam. The geologist in chief
has expressed the unsuitability of the given narrowness - but others simply
do not exist.
Nevertheless the construction
work is being continued.
The planners have arrived at the site and started their
work already in September of 1998, even before the Bashkirian Ministers
Cabinet could take its decision NR 5-40r about the beginning of the planning
process. The roads were widened and an asphalt surface put on them, electric
wires were led to the construction site. A temporary dam were constructed
cross the river to serve as a ford for heavy technology. The clearing of
the forest has begun - at the beginning of August already 60he were cleared.
Off the settlement Kuznezowsky the ground was removed down to the
bare rock at a surface area of more than 70he. Workers have begun to blow
up portions of the rock. A temporary settlement for the workers was erected
as well as a parking site for the technology and other structures. At the
moment more than 100 people are occupied at the construction site supported
by more than 50 pieces of various technological tools (like heavy trucks
"BelAS", excavators and other). The construction work goes on in two shifts.
The construction work has already destroyed resp. will
destroy during the next months 1 nest of the Imperial eagle, 1 nest of
the Spotted eagle, a colony of Lesser’s kestrel’s (globally rare species,
Red Books of IUCN, RF and RB), 1 nest of the Golden eagle, 1 nest of the
Short-toed eagle, 2 nests of the Peregrine, 3 nests of the eagle-owl (Red
Books of RF and RB) and 3 hibernation places of more than 1 000 bats.
The only authority that still puts up a fight against
the ongoing barbarism is the State Commission for Ecology of the RF. In
April one of its representatives has visited the site, has put up a file
and has ordered to temporarily suspend the construction. This was not of
any effect. During the second visit in August of 1999 the inspector found
the order not complied with as a consequence of which the bank account
of the "Yumagusinsky Dam Ltd." was frozen and a fine laid upon its chairman.
Besides the Russian "Public Prosecutor's Office" after numerous inquiries
has now declared that legal proceedings against the Ministers Cabinet of
the RB will be initiated soon. Thus in Moscow there is no doubt that the
construction work at the Belaya River will soon come to an end.
But in Ufa the things is looked at differently. The planning
for the "Yumaguzinsky Dam" is completed. As next step the project has to
pass the EIA. But they have forgotten that a federal area, as it is the
National Park "Bashkiria" claims for a federal EIA. The Russian State Commission
on Ecology is neither informed about the complete project, nor they know
anything about the already formed group of experts who have practically
begun the Assess. To make things as legal as possible even an "independent"
public commission was appointed (!). For all this are released considerable
financial resources and the result is quite predictable.
In the bashkirian mass media is kindled a campaign in
fond of the dam. The attempts to inform the public about the real state
of the project and the circumstances are being harshly denied. In addition
the republican agency of the Federal Security Service has joined the republican
Until now only very few people and scientists have expressed
their protest. Signatures have been gathered and public meetings of directly
affected people have been held. Unfortunately the current political situation
has not allow to raise the voice so every body could hear it.
To know, how to help and forfurther information please contact the
European River Network
Alfred Olfert: alfred.olfert at ern.org
8, Rue Crozatier
F - 43000 Le Puy / France