China wants to buy Siberian river water from Russia
China is hoping to solve its water deficit in a number of regions with Russia’s help. The Chinese Association for Exchanges and Collaboration between Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China has already sent the corresponding letter to Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
One of the options proposed by China is an intergovernmental project to divert water from Russia’s Altai Krai to western China through Kazakhstan. The construction of the water pipeline would cost an estimated $80 billion, according to RBC news agency.
The proposed construction project will include two stages. Firstly, by 2026 they plan to build the first of the Russia – Kazakhstan – Western China water pipelines, with a capacity of 600-700 million cubic meters, as well as a network of distribution pipelines. Secondly, by 2040 they may implement “modern farming” and other projects intended to “improve water use efficiency in the border territories of China, Kazakhstan and Russia”.
The pipeline from Russia to China will have an estimated length between 1,200 and 1,500 km. Based on this, the budget for the project’s first stage could be $10.3-13.4 billion, and the second (between 2027 and 2040) as much as $70-75 billion. Of this, $30-40 billion will be the budget of the infrastructural part, and the remainder will be for the investment program.
China has put its interest in Russian water on the agenda of the joint Russia-China summits and commissions. In particular, the topic was discussed on the sidelines of the SCO summit in June, and “received political support”, according to the letter’s authors. In their opinion, the project could be part of the Chinese initiative to create a global transport and investment infrastructure, the “One Belt One Road” initiative, which combines the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
The Association for exchanges and collaboration between Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and China was established in 2015. In August it published a study on the “water famine” in Central Asia and ways it could be solved. According to UN data cited in the report, the water supply to Central Asia’s population has shrunk by 70% in the last 50 years. According to calculations by the Global Water Initiative, it may reach the critical figure of 1.7 cubic meters per person per year. Several regions of China and Kazakhstan may be faced with a water deficit.
China holds the sixth position in the world with respect to water reserves, but more than half of the fluvial regions in the country’s seven largest river systems have been polluted in one way or another. Out of China’s 35 most important lakes, only 18 are clean, and water from 40% of sources is not suitable for consumption. This is caused by industries dumping untreated industrial water, as well as the “extremely high air pollution and widespread ground contamination”.