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The Amur River border. Once a symbol of conflict, could it turn into a water resource stake?

Le fleuve Amour : symbole de conflit passé, futur enjeu de ressource hydraulique ?

Frédéric Lasserre

Résumés

Les relations entre la Chine et la Russie se sont considérablement détendues depuis une dizaine d’années. Ce réchauffement diplomatique met un terme à la forte tension qui régnait entre les deux pays. Le commerce croît, et les investissements chinois dans la  zone frontière stimulent la croissance le long du fleuve Amour. Mais avec la croissance viennent les prélèvements en eau : des cas de manque d’eau sont déjà apparus dans le bassin. Les perspectives sont d’autant plus problématiques que la plaine de Chine du Nord est confrontée à de graves pénuries d’eau, lesquelles pourraient être en partie résolues, à moyen terme, par un canal en provenance du bassin de l’Amour/Heilongjiang. Une telle perspective pourrait-elle être envisageable, compte tenu de la volatilité des relations entre Moscou et Beijing ?

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Texte intégral

1On March 2nd, 14th and 15th, 1969, near Damanski/Chenpao Island on the Ussuri River, Soviet and Chinese forces clashed severely (about 1 000 soldiers were killed). With this confrontation that involved several hundred troops, the air force and heavy mechanized equipment on both sides – the tensions between Moscow and Beijing had escalated beyond the mere border clash. This heavy battle took place not far from the site of the first battle between Chinese and Russian troops, in 1650… In 1969, China and the Soviet Union seemed on the brink of war. After tension receded somewhat, the Amur River remained a tense area, heavily patrolled, a closed border.

2With the warming of relations between the two countries, trade expanded and economic growth began to alter the economic geography of the region. The then Russian side slipped into recession, the Chinese side witnessed an unprecedented economic boom. The Amur River border had become a trade gate between the two neighbours; most political and border issues were settled peacefully through a series of treaties.

3It seems, however, that the new era of sino-russian relations is also tainted with suspicion and long-term fears. Growth and trade opportunities in the Amur area have attracted migrants to the area. Chinese immigration to the region is fuelling local Russian fears of a “creeping invasion” aimed at claiming the former Chinese territories back. At the government levels, relations are normalized and both sides have engaged in trade and security cooperation, but the relationship remains uneasy and tainted with long-term mistrust.

4Could water sharing become an issue between Russia and China? Growth, population expansion and agricultural development, especially on the Chinese side, have also brought about the expansion of water withdrawals, at a time when the water situation is worsening in the North China plain. Slow expansion, both industrial and agricultural, is unlikely to create water scarcity in the Russian Far East, but water demand on the Chinese side, coupled with a precipitation pattern that makes the region vulnerable to droughts, is becoming an issue. In the Amur Basin, a region where the water resource was considered infinite, scarcity is also becoming a problem, both locally and because the Amur Basin water is becoming coveted in other Chinese regions. Derivation projects have surfaced, conflicting uses of the Amur’s water have emerged. A plan to rationalize the use of the Ussuri water has been set up, but seems to be failing to reach its objectives because of poor coordination between authorities.

5The water issue in the border area between Russia and China stems mainly from the growing water scarcity in Northern China, a scarcity that has reached the point where officials openly mention water as a limitating factor to growth. At the same time, agriculture is still expanding in the Northeast, in particular with crops that require large amounts of water. Water from the Chinese side of the Amur basin (Map 1) is becoming caught between conflicting demands, local needs to expand agriculture so as to feed China, and demand from the North China plain where the rivers are running dry and water tables dropping fast.

6Russian authorities have not published detailed hydrologic reports as to how water resource sharing could become a political issue with China. The scarcity of Russian figures does not mean, however, that authorities are not wary. They have already expressed their concern over low levels of water in the Amur river basinWith Chinese plans for increased consumption in the Northeast, locally first, and with potential water exports in the longer term to quench an ever thirsty North China plain, are local water resources on the Chinese side sufficient to satisfy demand? To what extent are growing water needs in Northeastern China going to affect the uneasy China-Russia relationship? Although it is of course too soon to answer, it is nevertheless relevant to wonder if the fast increasing Chinese water demand, and the probable ensuing water sharing issue, could alter the present mutually beneficial ties between Russia and China, ties that have been forged not on common friendship, but against common adversaries.

Becoming a trading border... The Amur as a gate between Russia and China

  • 1  La Presse, Montréal, May 15th, 2002; May 24th, 2002.
  • 2  Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, Sino-Russian Relations under Putin, CANCAPS Papier nº24, Toronto, March 20 (...)

7Russia as well as China had strong reasons for improving relations. China could alleviate the military pressure on its northern border and engage in military and technological co-operation with Russia, at a time when the United States began to be more sensitive about transferring high-technology know-how to China. As for Russia, it could then concentrate on the enormous internal challenges implied by the break-up of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the economy. Rapprochement is not so much a response to NATO enlargement, as Russian policies since September 11 attest to: Russia was quick in accepting, in May 2002, the setting up of a joint NATO-Russia Council to manage military co-operation and intelligence exchange1. In fact, Russia recognised its most urgent task was to deal with domestic economic security; to do so effectively, good relations with the West as well as with China were needed2. But, to be sure, cooperation with China on the security front of islamic militant group is developing fast.

  • 3  BBC News, November 10, 1997.
  • 4  Sherman Garnett, Limited Partnership. Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia, Russian and Euras (...)
  • 5  BBC News, December 9, 1999; Jean Radvanyi, La Nouvelle Russie, Armand Colin, Paris, 2000, p.391; S (...)

8In November 1997, Russian and Chinese officials signed a joint statement indicating near-resolution of all border issues, after broad agreements were signed in 1991 and 1994. The leaders also set the target of bilateral trade at $20 billion for 2000, a figure that already seemed unrealistic at the time3. Old contentious issues, especially disputes about borders, have largely been eliminated, with the few continuing problems managed by diplomatic compromise, the two governments agreeing notably to disagree for 50 more years about the sovereignty over islands near Khabarovsk4. In 1992, Gorbachev’s promised withdrawal of Soviet forces from Mongolia was completed under Russian President Eltsin. Confidence-building measures have regularly been discussed since 1994, with agreements in 1994, 1996, 1997 and 1999. The last border agreement, signed in December 1999, settled the dispute about Lake Khanka, specifically calls for the development of the Amur River region. Several ports along the Amur, on both sides of the river, have been declared open to trade for shipping companies of both countries5.

9Russian-Chinese trade has expanded fast, from negligible levels of mainly barter trade in 1989, to about 9,8 billion $ in 2001. Local trade is completely free since 1995. This, in itself, dramatically alters the border landscape, for the previously sealed border has turned into a border teeming with trade as well as construction and investment projects, mostly from the Chinese side. Indeed, Russia-China trade remains negligible among each country’s global trade, and is largely owing to arms sales and nuclear power technology transfers from Russia.

  • 6  Zhongzhong Wang, Studies of the Economy and Trade of the Heilongjiang Border Areas and Policy Resp (...)

10But the impact of this border trade was very significant, especially for Northeast China, a disadvantaged region, far from sea ports and special economic zones where Western investment poured, and where the larger share of the industry was made of ageing State firms. Average income in Heilongjiang border districts grew from 400 yuans in 1988 to 2 000 yuans in 19956.

Chart 1. - Russia’s Trade with China (US $ million)

Imports

Exports

Total

% of Russia’s trade

% of China’s trade

1992

1 669

2 737

4 406

14,1

2,7

1993

2 335

3 068

5 403

12,6

2,8

1994

952

2 838

3 790

3,7

1,6

1995

865

3 377

4 242

3,4

2

1996

993

4 670

5 663

4,4

1,95

1997

1 261

3 982

5 243

3,8

1,6

1998

1 146

3 144

4 290

3,8

1,3

1999

889

3 476

4 365

4,2

1,2

2000

948

5 233

6 181

4,5

1,3

2001

8 100

4,3

1,4

2002

10 500 (est)

Source: IMF, Direction of Trade Statistics Yearbook, 1996, 2001; Pravda, October 17, 2001; Muzi News, Beijing, October 29, 2002.

  • 7  Le Monde, 21 août 2001.
  • 8  Libération, 15 août 2001; Le Monde, 21 août 2001.

11Chinese cities along the Amur have been booming as a consequence of the opening border trade: Chinese firms come to the region to sell their goods, sometimes illegally, to the Russian market; others invest in natural resources that Russia offer them aplenty, timber, minerals, energy. Blagovechtchensk, 223 000 inhabitants (2002), was for long a closed city, forbidden to foreigners and non-residents. Heihe, the Chinese town on the other side of the Amur, was a village 10 years ago; it is now a bustling town with 72 000 people (2002), numerous several-storied glass buildings, an international hotel, a busy commercial port and several construction sites7. In June 2001, Chinese officials, upset at the slow progress of a bridge project between Heihe and Blagovechtchensk, have suggested they could finance it themselves, a sure sign that the Chinese business community is pressing ahead for the development of trade and investment in the border area. Chinese officials also hint that they are interested in giving a new impetus to agriculture in the Amur valley, for cereals and soybean production notably8.

Demographic imbalances, or the “Yellow Peril” revisited.

  • 9  Heilongjiang, 37 million; Jilin, 27 million; Liaoning, 42 million.
  • 10  A. G. Visnevskiy, The Population of Russia [Naseleniye Rossii], Moscow, Yevraziya, 1994; quoted by (...)
  • 11  Galina Vitkovskaya, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, Kathleen Newland, “Chinese Migration into Russia”, in (...)

12Only 7,5 million people live in the Russian Far East (and 2 million in the Amur and Tchita regions) compared to 106,6 million in the three Northeast China provinces (Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning)9 in 2000. This implies average densities of 2,6 people/sq. km in Russia compared to 133 people/sq. km in Northeastern China and 79,6 people/sq. km in the border province of Heilongjiang. This imbalance is all the more worrying for Russian authorities as the natural growth rate is already negative (-1,9 ‰ in 1994, -2,4 ‰ in 1996) and the demographic trend is clearly toward a rapid population decrease since 1992 because of a massive negative migration balance. It appeared for the first time around 1990-92. The rate of outmigration grew from 12 per 10 000 in 1990 to 56 per 10 000 in 1992 and remained high ever since. A 1994 study stated that “the demographic potential... of the Far East is clearly insufficient for the development of the natural resources located there...”10, especially in districts along the Amur region. Between 1992 and 1996, Khabarovskii krai and Amur oblast lost 3,3% of their population, and Primorskii krai, 1,5%11 (Map 2).

  • 12  Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, Sino-Russian Relations under Putin, CANCAPS Papier nº24, Toronto, March 20 (...)

13Because of the natural population decline Russia will be experiencing as of 2005 approximately, labour force will also take on a downward trend that will imply immigration to ensure development. Russia will not be able to avoid opening up its borders to more Chinese immigration, although the local population tends to see the prospect of these workers settling up in Russia not as an economic salvation but as a renewed “yellow peril”, “creeping occupation”, a Trojan horse China will use someday to claim anew the lost territories Russia annexed with the Aigoun and Beijing treaties in 1858 and 186012.

  • 13  Garnett, op. cit, 1998, p.37; Jean Radvanyi, La Nouvelle Russie, Armand Colin, 2000, p.392; ABC Ne (...)
  • 14  Garnett, op. cit, 1998, p.38; Le Monde, 21 août 2001; Philippe Bourbeau, La Chine et la diaspora c (...)

14Chinese immigrants in the Russian Far East numbered 2 000 in 1989 and approximately between 200 000 and 350 000 in 1999, depending on the Western source – far less than the 2 to 5 million figure often quoted by anxious Russian sources, including the Russian Interior Ministry, and less than the 450 000 Chinese living in the region in 189713. Russian local politicians often considerably exaggerate the scope of Chinese immigration to the area since it gives them a tool to capitalise on resentment against economic decline, unemployment and fear for their future14. They always fail to mention that, although the Chinese provinces are much more populated overall, the Chinese border areas have been relatively empty for a long time, because of a lack of investment from Chinese authorities.

  • 15  Frédéric Lasserre, Le Dragon et la Mer. Stratégies géopolitiques chinoises en mer de Chine du Sud. (...)

15China does not nurture plans to retake the lost territories at the end of the XIXth century. The rhetoric about the “unequal treaties” was more symbolic – Beijing wanted Moscow to renegotiate a treaty that would, likely, bring about only minor changes to the border. China carried on this policy to renegotiate all borders agreements during the 1960s with its neighbours, so as to erase the memories of border agreements that were inherited from the colonial era15. However, the migration pressure might become too strong for China to control, especially as agricultural production faces severe challenges in North China, as will be seen below: fertile farmland and available water, the crisis of agricultural production on the Russian side of the Amur that sends foodstuff prices skyrocketing, the need for labour force, ample timber, gold deposits make the region attractive for settlers from China.

  • 16  Frédéric Lasserre, “La Chine importera de l’eau de ses lointaines montagnes”, dans Frédéric Lasser (...)

16Opening new agriculture fronts is already a priority in Chinese plans, because of the severe water problem in Northern China16. In the medium-term, it could also be that China could seriously consider the derivation of water from the Amur/Heilongjiang basin to Northern China. Far from being marked by a mere problem of border communities, relations between China and Russia could prove complicated by new resource stakes: water and irrigated lands.

At the heart of the problem: the sheer size of irrigation use in Northern China.

  • 17  MWR, Reform and Development in Water Sector in China, Beijing, 1997, unpaginated.
  • 18  Wu, Kai, Tang, Deug-Yin and Xie, Xian-Qun, “Effects of Water Fluctuation on Agricultural Productio (...)
  • 19  Brown, Lester and Halweil, Brian. “China’s Water Shortage Could Shake World Food Security”, WorldW (...)

17With 51 million hectares of irrigated land, China has more than any other country. This compares with some 46 million hectares in India and 20 million in the United States, the countries ranking second and third in irrigated area. Irrigated surfaces grew by 34 million ha from the 17 million ha since 195017. Far more important to China than to those two nations, irrigation covers roughly half of the total cropland area and accounts for nearly four-fifths of the all-important grain harvest. Located in the Northern China plain, the basins of the rivers Huang, Hai and Huai (3H basin) account for about 44% of corn, 67% of wheat, 72% of millet, 40% of cotton and 24% of vegetable oil productions18. Irrigation in the 3H basin is relying on a growing number of deeper and deeper tube wells, so as to pump into aquifers. The global level of the water table fell by 1,5 meter per year between 1993 and 1998, according to a study by the Agriculture University of Beijing19. With most aquifers being depleted, China is now reconsidering its options for reestablishing a balance between water use and supply, since the destruction of these very aquifers would bring a severe blow to agriculture in this region, given its dependence on groundwater.

  • 20  PRC Ministry of Water Resources, World Bank; AusAID. Agenda for Water Sector Strategy for North Ch (...)

18The Chinese Ministry of Water estimates show that expanding resource exploitation in the North China plain is not an option: even with increased aquifer pumping, total supply would, under a 95% probability, increase from 122 billion m³ in 1997 to 133,3 billion m³ in 2050, an increase of 9,1%. On the other hand, demand change, taking into account a 10% efficiency improvement in agriculture and industry, a strong price increase and the development of water reuse, would, in the 95% probability scenario, jump from 190,6 billion m³ in 1997 to 207,8 billion m³, also a 9% increase: thus, envisioned measures would merely slow down the demand increase to a similar pace as water supply, without closing a widening gap of 68,6 billion m³ in 1997 and 74,5 billion m³ in 205020.

  • 21  Huangcheng, Gou; Zhikang, Xu. “Land Use and Crop Allocation in the Proposed Water Transfer Region” (...)
  • 22  Jean-Paul Bravard. “Un enjeu hydropolitique et environnemental majeur pour la Chine: le transfert (...)
  • 23 Monique Mainguet. “Aridité, sécheresse et dégradation dans les aires sèches de Chine”, Cahiers Séch (...)

19This is why irrigated agriculture really is at a crossroads in Northern China: although more efficient techniques are slowly spreading, accounting for the stabilization of water withdrawals, the level of water pumped underground and withdrawn from surface streams is often not sustainable in the long run. Moreover, poor drainage spread salinization that affected 20% of the 3H basin cultivated land in 1982 and about 25% in 199621. Only reclamation could make up for these soil losses, since soil washing would require too large amounts of water, but reclamation has so far aggravated desertification in Northern China and has often given poor results because of the lack of water22; excess water use upstream also accelerate desertification downstream, as it causes the degradation of the riparian tougai forests, the drying of grasslands and the dispersion of fine silt23. Thus, relative water scarcity is really becoming the one factor that is limiting agriculture growth in Northern China.

20There is water enough in China on a national scale: about 2 260 m³/person/year on average in 1999. But this water is very unevenly distributed: water available figures up to 32 000 m³/person/year in the coastal South-East, whereas the North China Plain receives only 225 m³/person/year (Map 3).

Water transfers within China

  • 24  Lasserre, op. cit., 2002, p.251.
  • 25  Bravard, op. cit., 2001, p.61.
  • 26  Vaclav Smil, The Bad Earth, Environmental Degradation in China, ME Sharpe and Zed books, New York (...)

21The only solution, according to Chinese planners, apart from drastic measures to cut down on rural water use, or massive and costly investment in water-efficient irrigation techniques, is diversion of water from elsewhere. The diversion of the Yangzi waters has been debated among Chinese planners since 1952 (Map 4). Political upheavals and the sheer engineering scope of the project account for its being delayed several times and the government reluctance to go ahead with it24. There were strong debates within China among political circles as to whether the derivation project should really be approved; its approval by the Communist Party Congress in 1992, by a mere two thirds majority attests to the controversy even within the Chinese government25. This debate explains why, for instance, as the first eastern route sequence was due to be completed in 1990, with a diversion volume of 2,1 billion m³, works never began in earnest26. The severe drought that struck China for the past 5 years has lent urgency to the 50-year-old plan to bring water to northern China from the Yangzi River. But government planners are also all too well aware of the fact that improved water management techniques, pricing and recycling, besides being costly, are also slow in showing large-scale effects.  

  • 27  Liu Changming, and Shen Dajun. The most vital strategy. An overview of areal reallocation of Chin (...)

22Government planners have selected three routes; most were envisioned as early as the 1950s. The eastern route, first approved as early as 1983, implies the widening and deepening of the Grand Canal from the Shanghai region up north to Beijing. This route would transfer between 19 and 21 billion m³ per year “in the long term”27.

  • 28  Chen Chunhuai, Major characteristics and problems of the south-to-north water-transfer project in (...)

23The middle route, given present priority, would transfer water from the Danjiangkou reservoir on the Han River to supply Hubei, Henan, Hebei, and then go on to Beijing and Tianjin with a tunnel under the Huanghe. Long term projects also include the derivation of water from the Three Gorges Reservoir into the Danjiangkou, raising the derivation capacity from 13,8 to 23 billion m³28.

  • 29 Changming and Dajun, op. cit., 1995, pp.5-7; Chen Xiande, Water transfer along the Western route,(...)
  • 30  Smil, 1984, op. cit., p.90; Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 February 2000.

24The western route imply gigantic work such as 410-meter high dams, tunnels between 30 and 210 km, 2 pumping stations lifting water by 495 m and 485 m for a total derivation that would not exceed 20 billion m³29. Some authors strongly assert that the western route is utterly unrealistic30, while other insist China cannot do without it in the medium to longer term, given the water deficit that will develop in Northern China (Map 4)

  • 31 BBC News, November 15, 2001; South China Morning Post, November 15, 2001.
  • 32  Bravard, op. cit., 2001, p.65.

25The gigantic engineering project diverting water from upper, middle and lower reaches of the Yangzi, would alleviate to a certain extent water scarcity in the north, especially in the short term. However, some officials have hinted at the idea it is the acuteness of the drought crisis that had the government give the green light, in November 2001, to a costly ($22 billion, 1999 estimates)31 and controversial project: it remains to be seen what extent of real derivation work the government will opt for and to what extent it will not prove a heavy burden for government finances. The government decision seems irreversible nevertheless, if only because almost all forecasts show water deficits would be unbearable in Northern China without the water transfer scheme. In fact, the very structure of the Three Gorges project and the dam planning on the Han river (Gezhouba and Danjiangkou) attest to the long-term planning by Chinese authorities of the eventual likelihood of a transfer scheme from the Three Gorges reservoir32.

  • 33  Assuming a transfer of 12 billion m³. Sandia National Laboratories, Model Results – Water Resourc (...)
  • 34 Scenario including a 10% increase in efficiency, a 15% reuse and price increases. MWR, World Bank; (...)

26The South-North Water Transfer Project (SNWTP) may appear to be unavoidable given the widening water deficit in the Huanghe, Huai and Hai basins, but they will not solve the water scarcity issues in the region. A study by Sandia National Laboratories show that, should the consumptive patterns in Northern China remain the same, water deficits should return to 2002 levels in 2025 in the Hai basin, even with the Yangzi derivation33. According to an other study - assuming, as the ministry of Water Resources does, that water transfers from the Yangzi would amount to 12 billion m³ in 2010 and 19,4 billion m³ in 2020 - the global water deficit, under a 75% probability, would still be 33,6 billion m³ in 2010 and 30 billion m³ in 205034.

International watercourses derivation

27The sheer scope of the western route envisioned for the Yangzi derivation had Chinese scientists underline its poor feasibility or economic rationality, pointing to more practical derivation scheme in Northeastern China, especially in the Amur/Heilongjiang basin. Projects of damming Heilongjiang tributaries have already surfaced both within Russia and within China as droughts and fast economic development, especially on the Chinese side, imply a rapidly growing water demand.

28The Amur River rises in Mongolia, and then flows in the Russian Far East (Amurskaya oblast, Jewish Autonomous oblast, Khabarovsky krai, see Map 5). Its tributary, the Ussuri, makes the border between China and Primorsky krai. The length of the Amur watercourse is 4 440 km, of which 2 800 km pass on the Russian Far East’s territory, its basin covers an area of 1 855 000 sq. km (of which 933 000 sq. km lie on the Russian territory), and its mean annual flow is 346 cu. km. In terms of volume of water, the Amur River ranks fourth in Russia and follows the Yenisei, the Lena and the Ob. The main tributaries of the Amur on the Russian Far East territory are the Zeya (1 242 km), the Ussuri (897 km), the Amgun (723 km), the Selemdja (647 km), the Bureya (623 km); on the Chinese side, the Songhua (Sungari) drains most of the Songnen plain in the Northeast.

  • 35  Yu Tianxin, and Jia Kang. An inquiry into the resolution of China’s water resource crisis, Chine (...)
  • 36  James Nickum, Is China Living on the Water Margin?, The China Quarterly, 4, 1998, p.893.
  • 37  Beijing Information nº37, September 12, 2000, p.27.
  • 38  This water would be used for irrigation and oil production in the Karamai oilfields. The derivatio (...)

29Projects of derivation from the Amur/Heilongjiang Basin, in Northeastern China, include derivation from tributaries of the Songhua (Sunggari) River, a major tributary of the Heilongjiang35. Chinese officials also nurture projects to use water from the Yalu River (marking the border between China and North Korea)36; from the Ili and Ertix (Irtych) in northern Xinjiang, rivers that flow into Kazakhstan and drain into Lake Balkash and the Ob respectively37. These projects have so far reportedly remained on paper, mainly because Chinese officials know all to well these issues are very sensitive and difficult to manage; Russian sources, however, do mention a canal diverting water from the Black Irtych that drains into Ulungur Lake; the canal would presently divert 15% of the river flow, but Chinese authorities reportedly plan to increase the diversion rate to 50%38. A formal note of protest has been sent by the Kazakh government to Beijing.

  • 39  China Daily, September 20, 2001; Pravda, June 7, 2001.
  • 40  Asian Development Bank, ADB prepares water projects for People’s Republic of China, communiqué, Ju (...)
  • 41 Asian Development Bank, op. cit, July 28, 1999.

30But, besides being a potentially explosive issue with Kazakhstan and a China-wary Russia, water issues are becoming sensitive in Northeastern China and the Russian Far East as well, with rivers running less and less water, reservoirs drying up39, and the resource being increasingly tapped into40. It is not sure the Heilongjiang basin provinces would agree to let their water go when themselves begin to feel the pinch of water scarcity: precipitations are low (see Map 1) and shortages were severe enough in Heilongjiang for the Chinese government to ask for the help of the Asian Development Bank. The Heilongjiang Water Supply Project, drafted in 1999, will reduce water shortages and improve water quality in Harbin and Mudanjiang through the building of two multipurpose dams41.

  • 42 НациональнойСлужбойНовостей (НСН)/ National News Service (NNS), 2001.

31In general terms, the Russian Far East has enough water resources for economic activity. There are 5 times more water reserves per capita here than Russia's average. But this figure is misleading. The least per capita index is registered on Sakhalin and in Primorsky krai, the two most densely populated areas of the region. There already is a real shortage of drinking fresh water in areas where the bulk of the region's population lives - in the south of Primorsky and Khabarovsky krais and in some areas of Sakha. This shortage is caused naturally by the freezing of rivers, during the winter time, and by usually dry springs and falls42, but is compounded by the growing demand on both sides of the river.

Water consumption in the Amur Basin

  • 43 Frédéric Lasserre, Alleviating Water Scarcity in Northern China: Balancing Options and Policies Am (...)

32Although the economic activity has fallen down on the Russian side, the economic boom on the Chinese side of the border has more than made up for it; efforts are made by the Russian government to revitalize the economy of the region, and the Chinese government as well is implementing plans to boost growth in the Northeast region for domestic political reasons: Beijing is growingly under pressure from the population of inner China to make sure the new wealth witnessed on coastal provinces is spreading into Interior China43.

33Extending agriculture and developing new industrial activities imply accrued water use. The region is already experiencing drought that could mean new and significant problems local authorities will have to solve in cross-border talks.

Transportation

  • 44  Waterborne Transport, Far Eastern Center for Economic Development, Vladivostok, 1998.

34While railway and road infrastructure are deficient, river transportation in the Russian Far East is quite developed compared to other regions of Russia: it has three times more navigable inland waterways than Russia’s average – 31 km per 10 000 sq.km. In many regions, the riverway is the only means of transportation linking the area with other places. The total lenght of navigable waterways in the Amur basin reaches 6 000 km, with a navigation season lasting about 5 to 6 months. The water depth allows the use of ships or barges with a cargo capacity between 500 and 3 000 tons, and up to 5 000 tons in the lower reaches of the river, between Komsomolsk and Nikolaevsk on the Sea of Okhotsk. The main river ports on the Russian side are Komsomolsk, Khabarovsk and Blagoveshtchensk, but several other smaller ports dot the Russian river side, with a total traffic totaling about 6 million tons (1997)44.

  • 45  Pravda, July 6, 2001; November 26, 2001.

35The Amur River is not very deep, making navigation sensitive to level variations (Chart 2). In 2001, the unprecedented drought was so severe as to challenge navigation in the main Amur channel, whereas shipping links between Khabarovsk, Vladivostok and the high seas are significant and considered important by local authorities45.

Chart 2. - Navigable segments of the Amur River

Length, km

Depth, m

Width, m

Pokrovka-Blagoveshtchensk

895

1,30

60

Blagoveshtchensk-830th km

164

2

65

830th km – Khabarovsk

830

2,50

65

Khabarovsk-Komsomolsk

360

3,50

70

Komsomolsk-Nikolaevsk

569

4,25

70

Source: Российские речные суда, Бассейн Амура (Russian River Ships, Amur Basin), 2002. http://www.riverships.ru/​russian/​rivers/​amur.shtml

  • 46 НациональнойСлужбойНовостей (НСН)/ National News Service (NNS), 2001.

36Shipping is also extensive on the Chinese side of the border, Harbin being a bustling river port. Several Chinese and Russian river ports have been opened to cross-border trade, with Russian and Chinese ships allowed to call there (see Map 5). As a consequence, the volume of traffic is expected to increase along the Amur, Sungari and Ussuri waterways46. But trade growth will certainly be hampered should the river levels remain low because of increased pumping aimed at satisfying increasing water demands. From an economic point of view, both for booming Chinese ports and for struggling Russian cities, often isolated and with the river as tha main transportation link to the outside world, navigation remains crucial. A reduction in shipping capacities due to lower water flows would severely affect these communities.

Agriculture

37Besides emerging pressure on water resources from the Amur Basin to quench the thirst of the 3H basin, agriculture growth is already putting pressure on water available in the region.  

  • 47 Sergei Smirenski, “Establishment of a private, non-commercial protected territory: Muraviovka Park (...)
  • 48  Jean Radvanyi, La Nouvelle Russie, op. cit., pp.394-395.
  • 49  Jean-Pierre Larivière and Pierre Sigwalt, La Chine, Armand Colin, Paris, 1996, p.108; Taikan Oki e (...)

38To be sure, agriculture on the Russian side, concentrated along the Amur and Ussuri Rivers, has been steadily declining in recent years, by as much as 50% between 1989 and 1999, especially in the Amur oblast near Blagovechtchensk47. Local authorities are trying to stimulate the advent of new farms in the region: the climate enables the production of wheat, rice, potatoes, vegetables, soybeans, as well as an important animal husbandry activity that accounted for 70% of agricultural revenues and 40% of surfaces in 1999. More important, local productions represent only 30 to 45% of food consumption, forcing the import of expensive products to satisfy the demand. The south of the Amur oblast and Birobidjian, the Jewish Autonomous Region, are targeted as the main producing regions: there are the best land, and reservoirs from the Zeia and Boureia dams will help extend arable land48. Irrigation will prove necessary for the diversification of production: although the image of the region as a wet place is commonplace, in fact rains are concentrated in the summer time, with dry springs and falls, and are often not very plentiful, between 400 and 600 mm per year49.

  • 50 Galina Vitkovskaya, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, Kathleen Newland, “Chinese Migration into Russia”, in S (...)

39Trying both to fill the gap in agrifood demand on the Russian side, Chinese farmers have begun to take over land on the Russian side to produce more; but their activity is still marginal as only 3% of Chinese immigrants to the Russian Far East are farmers50. Production on the Chinese border area is also increasing fast, pulled by demand on the Russia side, by demand induced by the local Chinese population expansion and by reclamation efforts by local authorities in the frame of a national government policy to develop agriculture in Northeast China.

  • 51 R. Fuggle and W. Smith, Experience with Dams in Water and Energy Resource Development in the People (...)

40In Northeastern China, agriculture is expanding extensively, acting as a pioneering front designed to increase farmland area to boost production and create employment in a depressed region. After a decline in relative terms during the 1960s, the Chinese government and provincial authorities have designed a plan to transform the Northeast into a vast granary, where farmland expansion could guarantee food production increase. Rice, corn, soybeans, sugarbeets are the main crops, and animal husbandry is also expanding fast. In 1983, the objectives of government officials were to increase the cultivated area by 50%. In 1996, 200 000 ha were in the process of being put to production, with grants from the World Bank; plans were being drafted for 800 000 more51.

Chart 3. - Share of the Northeastern China agricultural production
(Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning)
Selected products, in % of national production)

Product

1980 share

1993 share

1999 share

Wheat

5,6

4,1

3,2

Corn

26,2

31,7

30,5

Soybeans

36,8

34

38,6

Meat

8,5

7,8

10,3

Rice

2,9

?

8,9

Sugarbeets

2

37,3

36

Total agricultural value

10,1

8,9

8,8

Source: Larivière and Sigwalt, La Chine, Armand Colin, 1996, p.110; China’s Statistical Abstract, 1981, pp.86-96, China’s Statistical Abstract, 2000, pp.103-104.

41Cultivation maps definitely show that China’s Northeast has become a major region for cereals and other agricultural staples such as corn and soybeans, mostly in the Sanjiang and Songnen plains, and increasingly along the Amur River banks (Map 6).

  • 52  Claude Aubert, L’agriculture chinoise: pour une approche régionale, in Déméter 97/98, Économie e (...)

42The choice of crops definitely has an impact on water use. The region does not suffer from a hot climate, but precipitations are rather low, especially in the Northwest of the area, and very irregular52. It is not that the chosen crops by Chinese farmers and Chinese officials are very water-demanding (except for rice), but their water needs, especially for corn and sugarbeet, are greater than precipitation-brought water: it is thus impossible to develop a totally rainfed agriculture in the newly developed areas of Northeast China (see Annex). As crop cultivation extends, irrigation will also follow suit, with both tubewell irrigation and water irrigation; it is already representing a sizeable share of cropland in the area, about 15 to 25 % (Map 7). Water management is already important enough an issue that Russian and Chinese authorities agreed, in 1993, to set up a jointly managed body to overview the development of the Ussuri watershed, unfortunately with few practical results (see below). The pace of agriculture growth on the Chinese side, and the likely bouncing back to growth of its Russian counterpart, are likely to make the question of water availability become a serious issue in cross-border relations.

  • 53 Fred Gale and Hsin-Hui Hsu, “China’s Grain Policy at a Crossroads”, Agricultural Outlook, September (...)

43In 2000, with a view to meeting standards requested by its impending admission to the WTO, China began phasing out procurement prices that guaranteed a fixed income to farmers cultivating grains. Grain output reportedly fell by as much as 59% in Northeast China (Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and Inner Mongolia) for spring wheat production, because of this measure53. This shift in cultivation does not mean less water use, for farmers usually shift to more value-added crops such as fruits or vegetables, or to cotton, crops that entail accrued water consumption.

Industry

  • 54  Elizabeth Wishnick, Chinese Perspectives on Cross-border Relations, in Sherman Garrett (ed.), Ra (...)

44Development of border areas with Chinese capital will, in turn, lead to new industries setting up in boom town and increasing their withdrawals, along with urban population in these centers. This trend is gradually unfolding, but it is not so much industrial use that could pose a problem in as much as Heilongjiang province, especially along the Amur and Ussuri rivers, had long being neglected, in part because it was on the front line against a long-time hostile USSR, also because urban centers and capital were located more to the south. The industrial base in Heilongjiang has remained stagnant because of the province’s continued dependence on noncompetitive resource-based industries54.

  • 55  Le Monde, 23 août 2001.
  • 56  Khabarovsk Station, http://www.grdc.sr.unh.edu/html/Polygons/P2906900.html
  • 57  Beijing Information nº48, November 29, 1999, p.26; nº46, November 14, 2000, p.17.

45Pollution, rather than direct water use, is increasingly a problem in the Amur basin, to the point where water can no longer be used for drinking water and fish cannot be consumed. Indigenous populations, like the Nanais, for instance, have seen their traditional way of life disrupted as their main diet, based on fish, was no longer available because of water pollution. Concentrations of toxic chemicals are six times the norm in the Troistkoe region, north of Khabarovsk, where Nanais live, and can reach 24 times the norm downstream55. Authorities have been asked to account for such a heavy pollution in so long and powerful a river (4 400 km; 10 900 cu.m/sec on average, with a great variability: 374 cu.m/sec at its lowest and 33 100 cu.m/sec at its peak in Khabarovsk56). No single explanation could credibly explain it. However, a whole set of factors probably concurred to such a high pollution level. The fast expansion of Chinese cities and industries, often without water treatment at all57; the shoddy controls of old Russian factories in Khabarovsk; major forest fires that could have altered runoff patterns and redirect old pollution into streams: all these factors are probably a part of the general evolution that, in a few years, made long stretches of the Amur and its tributaries heavily polluted.

A joint management of the Amur Basin Waters?

  • 58 Jukka Ilomäki, “China”, in Institutional Challenge of Developing Transboundary Water Resources, Hel (...)

46There are only two treaties dealing specifically with the Amur River water management, signed in June 1915 and in August 1956. The latter was aimed at determining the real potential for hydropower generation; the former, interestingly, was primarily concerned with border demarcation but included important specifications about water supply and made provisions for the equal sharing of water to be mobilized after 191558.

47The two countries never considered a binding trinational authority (China, Russia and Mongolia) so as to regulate water use and management in the Amur basin; nor is the concept of integrated and sustainable management well developed among the region: although the need to rationalize water use is increasingly understood in China, its implementation is slow, and its rationale lies not on the goal of finding an equilibrium so as to reach sustainable development, but so as to maximize the use of water so as to maximize its economic use.

48It would be inaccurate, however, to state that cooperation over water management is inexistent between Russia and China. The Ussuri Watershed Sustainable Land Use Program was undertaken to bring Russia and China into close co-operation in environmental and land use planning, with an important water management dimension. The Ussuri/Wusuli River joins two remote regions of the two countries, partly forming the border between them. On the western side of the river, comprising roughly one third of the Ussuri watershed, is the province of Heilongjiang. On the eastern side of the river, rest of the watershed lies within two territories of Russia’s maritime Far East: Khabarovsk Krai and Primorskii Krai, about twice the size but with barely a tenth of the population of Heilongjiang. Initiated in 1993, the program was coordinated by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations (NCUSCR) and Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD). While the program was undertaken to provide a sustainable land use plan for an ecologically sensitive and rapidly developing area, it was more about international relations than water or sustainability. Most important thing in the program was bringing two countries together around a common cause - a shared natural resource, with a view to reducing pollution and creating wildlife reservations. Bilateral talks have kept going, but, however, few results have so far been achieved.  

  • 59  Wen Bo, “Chinese Transboundary Water Issues”, Meeting of the Working Group on Environment in US-Ch (...)

49A similar agreement has been signed about the Tumen River basin, in the frame of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on the Tumen River Area Development Program (TRADP). Water management implies talks between Russia, China and North Korea. Stakes were important here because of irrigation activities in Russia, of fishing activites in Peter the Great Bay, of environmental concerns about the Tumer River delta. Water pollution has increased extremely fast during the past 10 years, mainly because of industrialzation and urbanization in Jilin province in China, where treatment facilities are as weak as in the rest of China. Russian farmers, relying on irrigation in the Peter the Great Bay area, have already bitterly complained about pollution coming from China, to no avail so far. Besides, forest exploitation in North Korea, Russia and China have caused deterioration of mountain catchment areas, leading to sedimentation and water shortages in the summer. Difficulties stem from the fact environmental preoccupations are still low on Jilin Proince officials’ agenda, and because the agreement provided for a very weak coordination structure. The experiment on the Tumen River does not augure very well for the Ussuri program either, inasmuch as transboundary coordination remains so flexible that hardly any progress on many issues has been regsitered so far59.

Conclusion

  • 60 Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, Sino-Russian Relations under Putin, op. cit., March 2000, p.7; Alexei Voskr (...)

50There still is underlying mistrust between China and Russia60, despite the warming of relations and the development of significant trade relations.

  • 61  de Villiers, 2000, pp.313-314.
  • 62 Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, Sino-Russian Relations under Putin, op. cit., March 2000, p.9.

51Once a political tool against the Soviet Union during the 1970s, when Chinese propaganda showed maps with derivation projects or the inclusion of the Amur basin into China, the idea of tapping into Siberia’s water resources could resurface in China, fear some government official in Russia61. China is also perceived as a threat to Russia’s environment and to the sustainability of Russian resources. Poaching and overfishing by fishermen from Russia, but for a large share from Japan, Korea and China is depleting fishery resources, especially as Russia’s ability to control fishing has been undermined by inadequate funding for its border guards who lack fuel and modern ships62. Also fueling this perception of China as an environmental threat is the large-scale exploitation of forest resources by Chinese, Japanese and Korean firms.

52This evolution of the bilateral relation between China and Russia, on both sides of a once heavily guarded border river, takes place at a time when water resources are increasingly a limiting factor in Chinese development, especially in the North China plain. Agriculture is using water resources there at an unsustainable rate; industries and cities are competing for a scarcer resource given the increased demand. The government has so far opted for the derivation of Yangzi water up north. But it is also aware that, if withdrawals levels remain as they are, other derivations will prove necessary because of the depletion of aquifers. Projects already exist, from the Yalu, the Irtish, or the Amur/Heilongjiang basin.

53If given the government approval, these projects are likely to trigger a heated debate between riparian countries. As for the Amur, such a derivation project would take place in a region where growth is already straining resources, and where suspicion remains present between the two main riparians, China and Russia.

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Annexe

Crops, evapotranspiration and water needs in North-eastern China
A tentative assessment of the rainfed agriculture prospects

There might be data processed by Chinese authorities or academics on crop evapotranspiration in Northeastern China, but it remained not to be found – so far. Ministry of Agriculture officials would not answer letters asking for such data.

So as to assess water needs for crop development and agricultural activities in the studied area, in the absence of official data, approximate evaluations can be drawn from commonly used formulas established by agronomists. This data can help assess the trends in water needs given the expansion of agricultural activities in Northeastern China, both in terms of seeded surface and chosen crops.

Methodology

Given the poor level of details found in Chinese meteorological records, I opted for the Blaney-Criddle formula:
ET = Kc x EToand ETo = p (0,46 Tmean + 8)
with ET = specific crop evapotransipration in a given place (mm/month)
ETo = reference crop evapotranspiration (mm/day) as an average per month
Kc = crop factor
Tmean = mean daily temperature
p = mean daily percentage of annual daytime hours63

The Penman-Monteith equation would be much more accurate, because it takes more variables into account, especially wind speed and humidity index.


where
Rn: net radiation at the crop surface [MJ m-2 day-1], G: soil heat flux density [MJ m-2 day-1], T: mean daily air temperature at 2 m height [°C], u2: wind speed at 2 m height [m s-1], es: saturation vapour pressure [kPa], ea: actual vapour pressure [kPa], es - ea: saturation vapour pressure deficit [kPa], ∆: slope vapour pressure curve [kPa °C-1], γ: psychrometric constant [kPa °C-1].

However, this formula implies elaborate calculation for which data was lacking. The formula was therefore not used for the present set of calculation.

Chinese meteorological data are difficult to find with long sets of data on a monthly basis. Series were found for a few cities in Northeastern China: Qiqihar, Harbin and Mudanjiang in Heilongjiang province; Changchun in Jilin province; Shenyang in Liaoning, and Hailar in eastern autonomous Inner Mongolia.

These sets of data are as shown64:

Qiqihar (47ºN 23’, 123ºE 55’)

Qiqihar (47ºN 23’, 123ºE 55’)

Precipitations in rain equivalent.  

Harbin (45ºN 41’, 126ºE 37’)

Harbin (45ºN 41’, 126ºE 37’)

Mudanjiang (44ºN 34’, 129ºE 36’)

Mudanjiang (44ºN 34’, 129ºE 36’)

Changchun (43ºN 53’, 125ºE 20’)

Changchun (43ºN 53’, 125ºE 20’)

Shenyang (41ºN 46’, 123ºE 26’)

Shenyang (41ºN 46’, 123ºE 26’)

Hailar (49ºN 13’, 119ºE 45’)

Hailar (49ºN 13’, 119ºE 45’)

The variable p (monthly mean daily percentages of daytime hours) for each station can be calculated with a linear interpolation given p values available for several latitudes in FAO documents, especially values between 40 and 50 degrees N65. The method presents of course a degree of error, but the aim of the calculation here is not to determine accurate evapotranspiration for main crops in Northeastern China – many more data stations would be needed for such an endeavour – but rather to get a valuable approximation in the absence of any value.

Mean daily percentage (p) of annual daytime hours for different latitudes

Mean daily percentage (p) of annual daytime hours for different latitudes

Similarly, mean temperature being absent from the meteorological sets, an approximation can be inferred by using the average between minima and maxima, although some underestimation of ETo will probably occur due to the non-linearity of the saturation vapour pressure - temperature relationship66.

ETo can then be calculated for each location, given the above-mentioned Blaney-Criddle formula, with the results as shown:

ETo values for selected cities in Northeast China (mm/day)

ETo values for selected cities in Northeast China (mm/day)

Note: negative values are only the reflection of the calculation with negative temperatures. They have no meaning for crop ET. Growing season values are relevant, from April to October.

For the computation of the Kc factor, it is important to remind crops use different quantities of water depending on their development stage. A certain crop will use more water once it is fully developed, compared to a crop which has just recently been planted. Thus, to determine the crop factor Kc, it is necessary, for each crop, to know the total length of the growing season and the lengths of the various growth stages.

Approximate duration of growth stages for various field crops in cool temperate climate

Kc factor for each growth stage

Kc factor for each growth stage

Note: in the region, rice initial development is done seeding the plant indoors so as to avoid night frost and favour fast development.

Source: from C. Brouwer and M. Heibloem, op. cit, 1986, p.72; H. Dupriez et et P. de Leener, Les chemins de l’eau: ruissellement, irrigation, drainage, L’Harmattan/ENDA, Nivelles, Belgium, 1990, p.231.

Cultivation season was set to begin on April 1st, except for rice where the first two months (initial stage) are deemed to be made indoor (March-April, with about 15ºC as mean temperature).

Monthly values for Kc are then the following:

Monthly values of Kc for each crop

Monthly values of Kc for each crop

Results

Evapotranspiration results are shown below, using the simple relation:
ET = Kc x ETo:

Monthly evapotranspiration, by location and by crop (mm/month)

Monthly evapotranspiration, by location and by crop (mm/month)

Note: rice evapotranspiration only reflects ground and leaves evapotranspiration. Paddy rice, with inundated fields, imply much greater water needs so as to keep the crop flooded.

The cultures that can be rainfed are overshadowed in green. When the deficit is less than 15%, the month value is overshadowed in yellow. Not overshadowed values imply an evapotranspiration deficit greater than 15%, implying the need to complement rain with irrigation.

Data analysis:

Rice is for sure a water-demanding crop; so is corn, to a lesser extent. Although its water needs are spread over a longer growing season, sugarbeet is also demanding similar amounts to corn.

To the contrary, soybean is not very demanding and would seem more adapted to dryer latitudes. Wheat, not calculated in this study, is also a crop that does not require large amounts of water per surface unit – as much as 30% less67.

It then may seem a curious choice to have opted for rice, corn and sugarbeet in rather dry regions.

But the amount of water needed by these crops, given the low temperatures, is not enormous: relative water scarcity for agricultural activities in the Northeast region will not really stem from the development of water-hungry crops such as cotton or tomato, but rather from the sheer extension of cultivated fields. Data shows precipitation levels are so low that irrigation is quite often needed to complement, sometimes heavily, crop cultivation in the area, the more so as cultivation is expanding up north and west. Results do show relying only on rain to grow crops is nearly impossible in Qiqihar and Hailar, but more so in Shenyang, underlining the decreasing precipitation gradient from the Southeast to the Northwest. There will be a clear correlation between crop extension and water need, which can be satisfied either with river irrigation or aquifer pumping. Given the low level of precipitation, it is doubtful replenishment of aquifers is fast: pumping will thus alter aquifer levels and encourage irrigation with water pumped from rivers in the Ussuri and Sungari watersheds.

Water flows are large in the Amur basin; but growing needs in Northeastern China may soon begin to alter basin-wide water availability.

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Notes

1  La Presse, Montréal, May 15th, 2002; May 24th, 2002.

2  Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, Sino-Russian Relations under Putin, CANCAPS Papier nº24, Toronto, March 2000, p.1.

3  BBC News, November 10, 1997.

4  Sherman Garnett, Limited Partnership. Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia, Russian and Eurasian Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, 1998, p.17.

5  BBC News, December 9, 1999; Jean Radvanyi, La Nouvelle Russie, Armand Colin, Paris, 2000, p.391; Sébastien Colin, “Confins sino-russes”, in Michel Foucher (dir.), Asies Nouvelles, Belin, Paris, 2002, pp.331.

6  Zhongzhong Wang, Studies of the Economy and Trade of the Heilongjiang Border Areas and Policy Responses, unpublished paper, June 11, 1995; quoted by Garnett, op. cit, 1998, p.21.

7  Le Monde, 21 août 2001.

8  Libération, 15 août 2001; Le Monde, 21 août 2001.

9  Heilongjiang, 37 million; Jilin, 27 million; Liaoning, 42 million.

10  A. G. Visnevskiy, The Population of Russia [Naseleniye Rossii], Moscow, Yevraziya, 1994; quoted by Garnett, op. cit., 1998, p.34; Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, Sino-Russian Relations under Putin, CANCAPS Papier nº24, op. cit., p.8.

11  Galina Vitkovskaya, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, Kathleen Newland, “Chinese Migration into Russia”, in Sherman Garrett (ed.), Rapprochement or Rivalry? Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, 2000, p.351.

12  Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, Sino-Russian Relations under Putin, CANCAPS Papier nº24, Toronto, March 2000, p.8; BBC News, April 12, 2001; Jean Radvanyi, “Identité territoriale et spatiale de la Russie”, conference at Laval Uiversity, Québec, on October 11, 2001.

13  Garnett, op. cit, 1998, p.37; Jean Radvanyi, La Nouvelle Russie, Armand Colin, 2000, p.392; ABC News, Russian Border Worries, 14 July 2000; Galina Vitkovskaya, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, Kathleen Newland, “Chinese Migration into Russia”, in Sherman Garrett (ed.), Rapprochement or Rivalry? Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia, op. cit., 2000, p.349.

14  Garnett, op. cit, 1998, p.38; Le Monde, 21 août 2001; Philippe Bourbeau, La Chine et la diaspora chinoise, L’Harmattan/Chaire Raoul Dandurand, Paris, 2002, pp.35-45.

15  Frédéric Lasserre, Le Dragon et la Mer. Stratégies géopolitiques chinoises en mer de Chine du Sud. L’Harmattan/Chaire Raoul Dandurand, Paris et Montréal, 1996, pp.243-250.

16  Frédéric Lasserre, “La Chine importera de l’eau de ses lointaines montagnes”, dans Frédéric Lasserre et Luc Descroix, Eaux et territoires: tensions, coopérations et géopolitique de l'eau, Presses Universitaires du Québec et l’Harmattan, Québec et Paris, à paraître, octobre 2002, pp.150-162.

17  MWR, Reform and Development in Water Sector in China, Beijing, 1997, unpaginated.

18  Wu, Kai, Tang, Deug-Yin and Xie, Xian-Qun, “Effects of Water Fluctuation on Agricultural Production in the Huang-Hai-Hai Plain, China”, The Journal of Geography, 9, 3, 1999, p.314; US Water News Online, www.uswaternews.com/archives/arcglobal/1worban6.html, June 2001.

19  Brown, Lester and Halweil, Brian. “China’s Water Shortage Could Shake World Food Security”, WorldWatch Magazine, July-August 1998, p.12; South China Morning Post, December 10, 1998; Wiberg, 1999.

20  PRC Ministry of Water Resources, World Bank; AusAID. Agenda for Water Sector Strategy for North China. Vol. 1: Summary Report, 2001, pp.44-48.

21  Huangcheng, Gou; Zhikang, Xu. “Land Use and Crop Allocation in the Proposed Water Transfer Region”, in Asit Biswas, Zuo Dakang, James Nickum and Liu Changming (eds.), Long-distance Water Transfer: A Chinese Case Study and International Experiences, Dublin, Tycooly, p.117; Datong, Ning. “An Assessment of the Economic Losses Resulting from Various Forms of Environmental Degradation in China”, in Mao Yu-shi, Ning Datong, Xia Guang, Wang Hongchang, Vaclav Smil, An assessment of the Economic Losses Resulting from Various Forms of Environmental Degradation in China. Occasional Paper of the Project on Environmental Scarcities, State Capacity, and Civil Violence, Cambridge: American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the University of Toronto, 1997, p.53; World Bank, China: Air, Land and Water. Environmental Priorities for a new Millenium, Washington, 2001, p.19.

22  Jean-Paul Bravard. “Un enjeu hydropolitique et environnemental majeur pour la Chine: le transfert Sud-nord”, Hérodote, Revue de géographie et de géopolitique, Paris, 102, 2001, p.63; World Bank, op.cit., 2001, pp.20-24.

23 Monique Mainguet. “Aridité, sécheresse et dégradation dans les aires sèches de Chine”, Cahiers Sécheresse, vol.7, nº1, 1996, p.48.

24  Lasserre, op. cit., 2002, p.251.

25  Bravard, op. cit., 2001, p.61.

26  Vaclav Smil, The Bad Earth, Environmental Degradation in China, ME Sharpe and Zed books, New York and London, 1984, p.91.

27  Liu Changming, and Shen Dajun. The most vital strategy. An overview of areal reallocation of China’s water resources , Chinese Environment & Development, vol.5, nº2, 1995, p.8.

28  Chen Chunhuai, Major characteristics and problems of the south-to-north water-transfer project in China, Chinese Environment & Development, vol.5, nº2, 1995, pp.23-25; Bangyi, Yao and Qinglian, Chen. “South-to-North Water Transfer project Plans”, in Asit Biswas, Zuo Dakang, James Nickum and Liu Changming (eds.), Long-distance Water Transfer: A Chinese Case Study and International Experiences, Dublin, Tycooly, 1983, pp.127-150.

29 Changming and Dajun, op. cit., 1995, pp.5-7; Chen Xiande, Water transfer along the Western route, Chinese Environment & Development, op. cit., vol.5, nº2, 1995, pp.78-82.

30  Smil, 1984, op. cit., p.90; Far Eastern Economic Review, 3 February 2000.

31 BBC News, November 15, 2001; South China Morning Post, November 15, 2001.

32  Bravard, op. cit., 2001, p.65.

33  Assuming a transfer of 12 billion m³. Sandia National Laboratories, Model Results – Water Resources, China Infrastructure Initiative, Albuquerque, 1999.

34 Scenario including a 10% increase in efficiency, a 15% reuse and price increases. MWR, World Bank; AusAID, 2001, op. cit., pp.48-49.

35  Yu Tianxin, and Jia Kang. An inquiry into the resolution of China’s water resource crisis, Chinese Environment & Development, vol. 7, nº4, 1997, p.36.

36  James Nickum, Is China Living on the Water Margin?, The China Quarterly, 4, 1998, p.893.

37  Beijing Information nº37, September 12, 2000, p.27.

38  This water would be used for irrigation and oil production in the Karamai oilfields. The derivation canal would be 300 km long and 22 meters wide. Project 635 is reported to cost about one billion dollars and to have been implemented in 2000. Ecostan News, vol. 7, nº7, July 2000. www.ecoline.ru/news/Jun00/00062904.txt

39  China Daily, September 20, 2001; Pravda, June 7, 2001.

40  Asian Development Bank, ADB prepares water projects for People’s Republic of China, communiqué, July 28, 1999; World Wildlife Fund, Biodiversity Conservation of the Amur River Freshwater Ecoregion, Living Waters Programme – Europe, 2000. www.panda.org/europe/freshwater/regional/russia-amur.html, 2000, pp.3-4.

41 Asian Development Bank, op. cit, July 28, 1999.

42 НациональнойСлужбойНовостей (НСН)/ National News Service (NNS), 2001.

43 Frédéric Lasserre, Alleviating Water Scarcity in Northern China: Balancing Options and Policies Among Chinese Decision-makers, Proceedings of the 12th Stockholm Water Symposium (11-15 August 2002), Stockholm, 2002, to be published.

44  Waterborne Transport, Far Eastern Center for Economic Development, Vladivostok, 1998.

45  Pravda, July 6, 2001; November 26, 2001.

46 НациональнойСлужбойНовостей (НСН)/ National News Service (NNS), 2001.

47 Sergei Smirenski, “Establishment of a private, non-commercial protected territory: Muraviovka Park of Sustainable Use”, Proceedings of the 1998 Convention of the Society for Conservation Biology, Washington, DC, 10-14 May 1998; Jean Radvanyi, La Nouvelle Russie, Armand Colin, 2000, p.395.

48  Jean Radvanyi, La Nouvelle Russie, op. cit., pp.394-395.

49  Jean-Pierre Larivière and Pierre Sigwalt, La Chine, Armand Colin, Paris, 1996, p.108; Taikan Oki et al, Global Atmospheric Water Balance and Runoff from Large River Basins, in Hydrological Processes, 9, 655-678, 1995, http://hydro.iis.u-tokyo.ac.jp/Ftp/IISgrdc.html

50 Galina Vitkovskaya, Zhanna Zayonchkovskaya, Kathleen Newland, “Chinese Migration into Russia”, in Sherman Garrett (ed.), Rapprochement or Rivalry? Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia, op. cit., 2000, p.356.

51 R. Fuggle and W. Smith, Experience with Dams in Water and Energy Resource Development in the People’s Republic of China. Paper prepared for the World commission on Dams, Cape Town, 2000, pp.28-31; Agricultural Sector Takes Lead Position in China, 1999;http://www.asiatradehub.com/china/agri.asp; Jean-Pierre Larivière and Pierre Sigwalt, La Chine, op. cit., 1998, p.110

52  Claude Aubert, L’agriculture chinoise: pour une approche régionale, in Déméter 97/98, Économie et Stratégies agricoles, Armand Colin, Paris, 1997, p.87.

53 Fred Gale and Hsin-Hui Hsu, “China’s Grain Policy at a Crossroads”, Agricultural Outlook, September 2001, p.17.

54  Elizabeth Wishnick, Chinese Perspectives on Cross-border Relations, in Sherman Garrett (ed.), Rapprochement or Rivalry? Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, 2000, p.230.

55  Le Monde, 23 août 2001.

56  Khabarovsk Station, http://www.grdc.sr.unh.edu/html/Polygons/P2906900.html

57  Beijing Information nº48, November 29, 1999, p.26; nº46, November 14, 2000, p.17.

58 Jukka Ilomäki, “China”, in Institutional Challenge of Developing Transboundary Water Resources, Helsinki University of Technology, Water Resource Laboratory, 2000,www.water.hut.fi/wr/research/glob/pubications/Ilomaki

59  Wen Bo, “Chinese Transboundary Water Issues”, Meeting of the Working Group on Environment in US-China Relations, January 7, 1998, Washington, DC.

60 Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, Sino-Russian Relations under Putin, op. cit., March 2000, p.7; Alexei Voskressenski, “Russia’s Evolving Grand Strategy toward China”, in Sherman Garrett (ed.), Rapprochement or Rivalry? Russia-China Relations in a Changing Asia, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, DC, 2000, pp.118-123; Vladivostok News, November 10, 2000.

61  de Villiers, 2000, pp.313-314.

62 Peggy Falkenheim Meyer, Sino-Russian Relations under Putin, op. cit., March 2000, p.9.

63 Ministère de la Coopération et du Développement, Mémento de l’Agronome, Paris, 1991, p.322.

64 Source: Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.

65 C. Brouwer and M. Heibloem, Irrigation Water Management: Irrigation Water Needs, FAO, Rome, 1986, chapter 3, p.42.

66 C. Brouwer and M. Heibloem, op. cit, 1986, p.51; Richard G. Allen, Luis S. Pereira, Dirk Raes, Martin Smith, Crop evapotranspiration - Guidelines for computing crop water requirements - FAO Irrigation and Drainage Paper 56, FAO, Rome, 1998, p.

67 R. Bouillot, Hydraulique agricole et urbaine, Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble, tome 1, 1976, p.97.

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Table des illustrations

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Titre Qiqihar (47ºN 23’, 123ºE 55’)
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Titre Harbin (45ºN 41’, 126ºE 37’)
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Titre Mudanjiang (44ºN 34’, 129ºE 36’)
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Titre Changchun (43ºN 53’, 125ºE 20’)
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Titre Shenyang (41ºN 46’, 123ºE 26’)
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Titre Hailar (49ºN 13’, 119ºE 45’)
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Titre Mean daily percentage (p) of annual daytime hours for different latitudes
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Titre ETo values for selected cities in Northeast China (mm/day)
Légende Note: negative values are only the reflection of the calculation with negative temperatures. They have no meaning for crop ET. Growing season values are relevant, from April to October.
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Titre Kc factor for each growth stage
Légende Note: in the region, rice initial development is done seeding the plant indoors so as to avoid night frost and favour fast development.
Crédits Source: from C. Brouwer and M. Heibloem, op. cit, 1986, p.72; H. Dupriez et et P. de Leener, Les chemins de l’eau: ruissellement, irrigation, drainage, L’Harmattan/ENDA, Nivelles, Belgium, 1990, p.231.
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Titre Monthly values of Kc for each crop
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Titre Monthly evapotranspiration, by location and by crop (mm/month)
Légende Note: rice evapotranspiration only reflects ground and leaves evapotranspiration. Paddy rice, with inundated fields, imply much greater water needs so as to keep the crop flooded.
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Référence électronique

Frédéric Lasserre, « The Amur River border. Once a symbol of conflict, could it turn into a water resource stake? », Cybergeo : European Journal of Geography [En ligne], Environnement, Nature, Paysage, document 242, mis en ligne le 30 juillet 2003, consulté le 22 septembre 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cybergeo/4141 ; DOI : 10.4000/cybergeo.4141

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Auteur

Frédéric Lasserre

Professeur adjoint, département de géographie, Université Laval, Québec
Chercheur régulier, Institut québécois des hautes études internationales (IQHEI)

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