Sunday, February 18, 2024

Mongolia’s Beijing-Financed Hydro-Electric Dams Threaten Lake Baikal, Danilov-Danilyan Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Feb. 15 – Mongolia’s decision to build hydro-electric dams to solve its domestic electricity shortage, a decision that Beijing has backed by financing the project, threatens transborder rivers flowing from Mongolia into Russia and even the survival of Lake Baikal, Viktor Danilov-Danilyan says.

            The corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences who heads the Moscow Institute on Water Problems says that in fact, “for Baikal,” what Mongolia with China’s backing is now doing, represents “a catastrophe for Baikal” and therefore must be of concern to all Russians (

            By reducing the flow of the Selenga River northward, the Mongolian project will lower water levels in the lake and threaten its fragile ecosystems, Danilov-Danilyan says. But he doesn’t address what may be the even more serious consequences of this development on the political relations between Moscow, on the one hand, and Mongolia and China, on the other.

            Given the sensitivity of Baikal in Russian thinking, Mongolia’s decision to take an action that will threaten its survival and China’s decision to back that will concessionary loans are likely to have a negative impact on Moscow’s relations with both Ulan Bator and, more importantly, Beijing.

            Moscow has been alarmed by Mongolia’s drift away from Russia and especially by its increasing attractiveness to the Mongolian-related Buryats and Tuvans on the Russian side of the border ( and

            Of course, the Kremlin isn’t nearly as concerned by Mongolia’s action as by China’s moves in support of what Ulan Bator is doing because while Russia could effectively pressure Mongolia if China weren’t involved, it will find it far harder to do so if Beijing is acting in support of Ulan Bator.

            And that in turn means that what looks like a small problem in Mongolia could trigger new tensions between Moscow and Beijing, especially considering how important the survival of Lake Baikal is in the Russian imagination.

No comments:

Post a Comment