Ts.Sosorbaram: Water supply for 1.3 million people is more important than grazing for ten herders


 A recent study stated that after five to ten years, the residents in Ulaanbaatar will face shortage of drinking water. Relevant organizations are looking for ways to save surface water and supply for the increasing water demand. As part of this work, water reservoir is to be established near Terelj. Although blueprints have already been developed, construction work is yet to begin. Ph.D Ts.Sosorbaram, director of Mongolian Water Company and advising engineer of Mongolia, gave an interview regarding the delay of construction work and other important aspects of the reservoir. 

When did you start talking about establishing a water reservoir at the basin of Gorkhi-Terelj National Park area?

A research for building a reservoir to use water from Tuul River first started in 1981. Scientists of five major institutions of Russia began this work and made construction designs and feasibility studies. Five locations around Tuul River were selected for establishing a reservoir. Specifically, three places around the border of Gachuurt and two places in Gorkhi-Terelj. Everything necessary for the construction was issued in the research including geodetic detailed mapping, hundreds of geological sites, earthquakes, measurements of seismic waves, building materials and estimated costs. For 30 years, this matter was discussed. However, the Water Program was approved in 2010 and issues concerning surface water usage received more attention. This made it possible to establish a water complex.

Why hasn’t the construction work started?

The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and Prestige company conducted further research based on the previous research. They concluded that it’s best to establish a reservoir at the basin of Terelj and Tuul River. We came to a position where we had to choose one of the two locations and develop a preliminary draft. It was assigned to the concession meeting to resolve it. Now, we’re waiting for their decision.

A significant amount of time has passed since the initial discussion of establishing a reservoir. During this period, was it discussed?

The Governor’s Office of Ulaanbaatar requested to establish a reservoir. The Citizen’s Representatives Council has to discuss it and the Ministry of Environment and Green Development (MEGD) has to assign a task force. They concluded that it’s best for professional organizations to make decisions and the matter was transferred to the National Water Commission led by the Prime Minister. Presently, we haven’t received a reply and time for the next conference is uncertain. If the National Water Commission approves, it will be discussed by the Water Resource Council of MEGD in charge of issues of surface and underground water resource. When the project is approved, investments will be decided and implementation will begin.

Mongolia has limited water resources, is it possible to establish a water reservoir?

Around 80 percent of Tuul River is from accumulated rain water and the rest from permafrost, snow and ice water of mountains. A significant amount of water passes Tuul River basin during summer. With its water above average flow level or flood water, it’s possible to establish a reservoir.

Is there a standard for reservoirs?

Reservoirs are different from hydroelectric power plants. You can say it’s a water complex. We must accumulate water as soon as possible and make a large harbor to establish the reservoir. This way, it’ll be possible to reduce current energy costs for delivering water to apartments. I heard that almost 30 percent of total expense of the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority of Ulaanbaatar (USUG) is from water delivery.

Furthermore, sanatorium aquatic environment will be built adjacent to the reservoir for increasing the population of fish.

Is it true that the work is delaying due to land issues?

Obviously, there are land issues. Furthermore, the location hasn’t been chosen from the two places. The basin of Gorkhi-Terelj where the water complex is planned is not only located in a tourism zone but it’s also a national park. It will either need to be removed from special protected areas after a proposal is submitted to the parliament and changes have to be made in the law or renew regimes/procedures of the project. In my opinion, with so many stages, this is very difficult. It’s forbidden to build any sort of facility in protected areas. If buildings are built, many issues and difficulties will arise. For example, noises from blasts, cars etc., animals will be scared away, species will be killed and weeds will grow. Establishing a water complex at the basin of Gorkhi-Terelj is a broad issue. Apart from wasting time, there’s a possibility that it’ll receive protests from local people.

It’s possible to establish the water complex in Gachuurt as it includes neither a settlement nor any private properties. Although there are several residents, it’s possible to relocate them.

What effects does the water complex have to the environment? How will restoration be done?

For a dry country like Mongolia, it’s significant in various aspects. It creates favorable conditions for creating ponds and lakes as well as increasing water resources. A certain amount of water will be absorbed in soil but it’s possible to reclaim and reuse it. There are risks of destroying forests, trees, willows and shrubs but we can replant them somewhere else. With the water complex, we’ll create a facility for animal population protection. Soils become watery and salinized in low and humid places with a lot of water. For Mongolia, it’s the opposite and it’s possible to establish a green facility.

Today, more than the grazing of ten herders, water supply for the population of 1.3 million people is more urgent. There aren’t any water reservoirs or electric power plants in Mongolia. There are 17 in Japan which has a comparatively small land, 30 in China and 57 in Moscow, Russia. The people need to understand that establishing a reservoir is significant to the ecology.

As for restoration, firstly, works to graze and transfer fertile soils will be incorporated into the project. To replant trees and plants, we’re planning on commissioning an environmental assessment. Other than that, there aren’t any effects on the environment.

What are the economic benefits of establishing a water complex?

Reservoir is unique because it’s a facility for adjusting water flow. Specifically, it supervises river flow so residents will not be affected by flood and issues such as rivers drying out and clean water shortage will be resolved. It’s also possible to adjust underground water structure. Until today, those who objected had the understandings that Ulaanbaatar will be flooded if we build a hydroelectric power plant. This is a bias to obstruct the project.

Water is one of the three essentials to life. It’s wrong to seek profit from water. Each resident in apartments in Ulaanbaatar uses 270 to 340 liters of water each day while a person living in the ger district uses six liters of water a day. They want to live in apartments. Last year, apartments for 20 thousand households were commissioned in Ulaanbaatar. This means that water usage increased substantially. In order to avoid water shortage, our reservoir will be used for cost recovery, not for profit.

If we establish a water complex, will water resource increase?

Although water resource will increase, for Mongolia, which is dry and has only one water complex, we’ll be able to get resources for only five to ten years. It’s necessary to build many reservoirs.

During a year with low precipitation, how much water can be accumulated?

A hydro-geological research was conducted for this. Based on a research showing that Tuul river basin was used for 40 year, a water complex for many years of usage will be established. This means that resources will not decrease during years with low precipitation.

The whole world is facing climate change and global warming. Will this situation affect water complex activities?

Global warming is affecting Mongolia. It is not only decreasing significant amounts of precipitation but also increasing evaporation in soil. This situation will affect water complex activities to a certain degree but we will conduct relevant studies. With its results, it’ll be possible to measure water level by monitoring water usage and delivery. For starters, our objective is to supply residents with clean water so we’ll continue to save resources.

To implement the project, how much funding is required?

Estimates were made based on studies conducted by Russians 30 years ago. After converting the currency to today’s rate, the estimate showed 250 to 300 million USD. According to the KOIKA’s version, over 300 million USD is required. This funding will be provided from several sources. We can acquire it from concessional loans, state budget, bonds, foreign investments and private businesses. Seven to 13 years will be needed to make up costs.

When will you start construction and when will it be commissioned?

If land issues are resolved, we’re ready to begin anytime. We’re anticipating good news from this conference. If we start our work today, we’ll have finished feasibility study around this time next year. Construction is estimated to take three years. Basically, we’ll get a water complex in four to five years.


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Posted by on May 1 2014. Filed under Топ мэдээ. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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