Russia and China developing treaty on water pollution
MOSCOW: Russia and China are drawing up a treaty on cross-border waterways that could determine compensation if an industrial accident in one country pollutes rivers that flow into the other, a senior environmental official said Thursday.
In 2005, an accident at a Chinese chemicals plant sent a toxic spill into the Amur river in Russia's Far East, forcing Harbin, the biggest city in China's northeast, to temporarily shut down running water to 3.8 million people.
Oleg Mitvol, the deputy head of Russian environmental watchdog Rosprirodnadzor, said the agreement could be signed in the fall. One of the problematic areas of the talks was Russia's interest in how to compensate for damages caused by pollution from the Chinese side, he said.
A fire at a chemical plant in Jilin in November 2005 caused a spill of toxic nitrobenzene and other chemicals into the China's Songhua river. The Songhua flows across China's northern border into Russia, where it becomes the Amur River and supplies water to the city of Khabarovsk.
According to Mitvol, the Songhua basin is home to 70 million people and some 2,000 companies, of which more than 100 are large petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and pulp plants. By comparison, just one million people live in the Russian cities along the Amur, Mitvol said.
Citing Russian data, he said that up to ninety percent of the pollutants in the Amur originate from Chinese companies. "According to our information tens of petrochemicals are to be built in the Songhua basin in the near future," he said.