Dehydrated Chinese city plans to pipe water 1000km from Russian lake

Posted 15 March 2017

PipelineThe Chinese government is planning on pumping water from Russia’s Lake Baikal to the city of Lanzhou in China’s Gansu province, according to reports in Chinese media. 

The project, outlined in a proposal entitled ‘Vision for Urban Planning 2030’, would involve building a 1000km pipeline through Mongolia to a region that saw just 380mm of rain last year. 

"The pipeline will boost the utilisation rate and business prospects of [Gansu province], improve the ecological environment of northwest China, and promote Lanzhou's economic growth," the proposal stated. 

The plan promises significant benefits, but hinges on the negotiations between Chinese, Mongolian and Russian governments, said Li Luoli, Vice President of the China Society of Economic Reform.

“For Mongolia and northern China which have been plagued by water scarcity, it will help improve environmental conditions that have become a bottleneck for economic development,” he said.

“Once the technical issues are resolved, diplomats should sit down and talk to each other about how each party would benefit from such international cooperation.”

China’s water shortage is a long standing issue, with the country containing 20% of the world’s population but only 7% of the world’s fresh water. 

The construction of a pipeline to Lanzhou is a necessity for China’s parched North, said Li. 

“The government should attach great importance to water resources of which there is a severe scarcity ... and for which there are no alternatives.”

The project’s feasibility is dependant on a variety of factors, said Wang Hao, Director of the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research. 

"It would… depend on what the water is used for. If it's used for irrigation, then I would say it's probably not worth it. If the water is for industrial uses, it would entail greater delivery costs as China's northwest lacks both raw materials and a robust market. So it's really too early to judge now,” he said. 

The announcement of the project also raises concerns for the environmental impact such a venture could have on the lake. Lake Baikal is the world’s largest lake, containing 20% of the world’s unfrozen fresh water and is home to 1200 animal species and 600 types of plants.