International treaties in Amur River Basin and development of transboundary environmental policies

Eugene Simonov
Dauria International Protected Area –DIPA; Daursky Zapovednik., Nizhnii Tchasuchei. Ononskii Rayon, Zabaikalsky Kray, Russia,


The Amur River basin, divided between three countries, provides ecological services important for other countries and the whole world. Integrated river basin management (IRBM) in the Amur-Heilong could be accomplished through international cooperation, a worthy objective of which would be an agreement and plan for protecting the entire Amur-Heilong River ecosystem. Despite Amur’s importance in biodiversity, fisheries and food production, wetlands conservation, climate change adaptation, etc. no international treaties have been signed that could provide solid basis for IRBM on Amur. One of reasons for that – drastically different cultures, population density and mode of economic development and water use in Russia, China and Mongolia, who signed a multitude of bilateral agreements, but do not have trilateral mechanism to protect common river ecosystem.
Long-term conservation programs carried by multilateral (GEF, UNDP) or non-governmental (WWF) organizations have been used to promote the idea of transboundary river conservation and management, but have very limited influence on water management and land-use decisions in the basin.
From many multilateral conventions the Ramsar Convention is one of the most relevant policy tools in the Amur-Heilong basin with 15 wetlands already listed under convention.  The Ramsar Convention Regional Initiative approach provides a suitable framework for multilateral cooperation on transboundary IRBM regime and transboundary environmental flows for wetland conservation.
Since Songhua toxic spill in 2005 rapid formation of new regime of cooperation and competition over transboundary waters has started in Amur River basin. I analyze which cooperation mechanism and regulation concepts could provide better platform for conservation and management of transboundary river ecosystem.

Keywords: Amur River, environmental flow, integrated river basin management, transboundary waters, international conventions, conservation of river ecosystem.