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Erdeneburen hydropower plant project, Mongolia


The Erdeneburen hydropower plant is planned on the Khovd River in western Mongolia, in an ecologically sensitive area of the Tsambagarav Uul National Park, a Ramsar protected area. The dam is included in the much larger Blue Horse program for Mongolia, a nationwide masterplan for water infrastructure development aimed at enabling further mining, cement production, and industrial activities in the country, in particular in the Gobi desert [2]. Its construction was due to start in April 2022 by state-owned Chinese engineering company PowerChina and financed through a USD 1 billion soft loan given by China in 2014. A joint venture between PowerChina, the Eleventh Hydropower Bureau and the Chengdu Institute, led by PowerChina, will carry out the construction of the project. The dam, which is Mongolia’s largest hydropower plant to date with a designed installed capacity of 90 MW and capacity to generate 366 million kWh a year, is expected to supply power to five provinces [1]. According to the government, it aims to reduce Mongolia’s dependence on expensive imported energy from China and Russia (currently accounting for the 72% of energy import in the Western Region) [4], and promote economic development by enabling the mining of minerals and oil in the Great Lakes Depression of western Mongolia.

Local communities have communicated their concerns for the local impacts the infrastructure will have via the embassy in Mongolia and managed to halt its construction. According to the project’s official website [1], the government has set aside 28,000 hectares of land, of which 9800 hectares will be for the reservoir for the Erdeneburen project, which will flood the lush river basin territories of four settlements in three provinces, according to Sukhgerel Dugersuren’s article in The Third Pole [2]. According to the Mongolian human rights defender, “PowerChina boasts that it has experience in “record rapid dam construction in alpine region”, as the same unit that built the Taishir hydropower project (an 11 MW hydropower plant completed in 2008 in western Mongolia) will build Erdeneburen. Far from being reassuring, this is one of nomadic communities’ main worries after the experience of the Taishir project. In 2017, our civil society organisation visited the Taishir dam. What we saw did not give us any confidence in the security and quality of the project: the concrete was cracked and an engineer with us pointed out a number of risks.” The ‘rapid’ building of the Taishir dam, in fact, caused cracks in the cement and a disruptive drop in water levels downstream the wall, with the consequent drying up of pastures and habitat for biodiversity that forced massive outmigration from ancestral lands of the local pastoralists. The reservoir will flood the best pastures of Uliast Bagh, an administrative unit in Uvs province, displacing the entire community of 112 pastoralist households.

“About 270 nomadic pastoralists and over a million livestock will be forced to seek new pastures. The degradation of pasture, due to increased pressure from displaced communities, loss of traditional livelihoods, and potential tribal conflicts over pasture and water access may lead to secondary negative impacts on the Ramsar wetlands.” “Several endemic fish species are found in the lakes as well as a large number of migratory waterbirds, including the globally threatened swan goose and vulnerable relict gull.”

In November 2021, herders traveled 1,540 km to the capital Ulaanbaatar to protest against the project, while other opponents spread their voices on social media [3].

However, the ruling Mongolian People’s Party announced they will speed up of mining licences and large “development projects”, lifting all requirements for permitting – which includes discounting the opinion of local governments in the process of land allocation. Moreover, they threatened opponents of investigation [2].

Project documents cannot be found on the official website for the Erdeneburen hydropower project [1] as of August 2022. According to Dugersuren [2], “An incomplete environmental and social impact report disregards international best practice and calls for an assessment of impacts on migratory fish, wetlands and wildlife to be postponed until the project’s construction phase – when little can be done to mitigate them. Furthermore, affected pastoralist communities were not consulted for the report on where and how they will be resettled, or how their traditional livelihoods will be protected”.

In August 2022 an alert has been issued by international human rights organizations about the potential threats prominent activist and analyst Sukhgerel Dugersuren is facing, including arrest. Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, launched a tweet in her support [5].

Front Line defenders launched an appeal and reported that “On 3 August 2022, during a government briefing, the Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs of Mongolia, H. Nyambaatar, stated that the construction of the power plant had been suspended for two years. On 3 June 2022, an article written by Sukhgerel Dugersuren criticising the Erdeneburen hydroelectric power plant which is planned to be built on the Khovd River in Western Mongolia was published by The Third Pole. The article raised concerns about the project, including about the safety of the construction, potential environmental impact given its location in an ecologically sensitive area of Tsambagarav Uul National Park, and the potential displacement of 112 pastoralist households. The article also raised concerns about the lack of transparency and public participation in decision making regarding the project. Construction on the power plant – funded by China’s EximBank – was due to be carried out by state-owned Chinese engineering company PowerChina.

During the government briefing, H. Nyambaatar also stated that a task force has been established to investigate cases where development projects are interrupted by civil society. These cases will be investigated as 'Sabotage' under the Criminal Code Article 19.6 and there will be a mechanism for reclaiming costs incurred due to the ‘lost opportunity’. The statement, which coincided with the visit of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Ulan Baatar who was visiting to discuss the power plant and other similar projects, is a direct threat of reprisal and punishment against human rights defenders such as Sukhgerel Dugersuren who have been vocal advocates for the rights of persons impacted by such projects.“ [6] [8]

UPDATE October 2022 from the website Rivers Without Boundaries: "On October 4 a video of local herders protesting the Erdeneburen hydroelectric power plant construction in Uvs Province’s Umnogovi sum was circulated online. It shows men, women, elderly and children preventing the passage of heavy machinery despite being harassed by several policemen.  As predicted by human rights NGOs the population of  Uvs Province’s Umnogov sum Ulyast Bagh have started to protest against the work of Erdeneburen HPP, which is threatening to deprive them of their ancestral lands. [...] All in all, the situation is developing according to the worst scenario predicted by RwB and human rights groups: local people are coerced to give up their land, culture, and lifestyle with compensation that is likely insufficient to restore their livelihoods elsewhere. When they protest to protect their ancestral lands, the government criminalizes their act and threatens to bring in more police to suppress them. Anyone helping protesters to express their concerns is threatened by criminal investigation and exorbitant fines. According to local sources 1 man and 3 women, who participated in October 4 events, have been officially accused of  “organizing illegal protest” by police."[9]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Erdeneburen hydropower plant project, Mongolia
State or province:Western Mongolia
Location of conflict:Uliast Bagh
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Land

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The dam, which is Mongolia’s largest hydropower plant to date with a designed installed capacity of 90 MW and the capacity to generate 366 million kWh a year, is expected to supply power to five provinces [1].

"In September 2021, Mongolia signed a deal awarding construction of the hydropower plant to the Power Construction Corporation of China, with the deal to be financed through a $1 billion loan from the Chinese government. In January 2022, Mongolia’s Minister of Energy Tavinbekh Nansal stated that construction would begin in March and take just over five years. “The one remaining issue is to remove the local communities that have agricultural and herding establishments” in the affected area, Tavinbekh said. “The government is working to relocate these communities and find a likely financial repayment for their relocation.”"

Project area:28,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive project1,000,000,000
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:500
Start of the conflict:2021
Company names or state enterprises: Power Construction Corporation of China (PowerChina) from China
Relevant government actors:Government of Mongolia
International and Finance InstitutionsChina Eximbank from China
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Oyu Tolgoi Watch (OT Watch)
Rivers without Boundaries Coalition in Mongolia

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Under negotiation
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:The conflict is going on in 2022.

Sources & Materials

[1] Erdeneburen project's official website

[2] The Third Pole. Still time to rethink Mongolia’s biggest dam to date

by Sukhgerel Dugersuren. June 3, 2022

[4] Erdeneburen project's official website.

The project coordinator answered the questions of the people who came to the project implementation unit.


[6] Front Line Defenders 9 August 2022. Woman Human Rights Defender Sukhgerel Dugersuren Facing Imminent Arrest

[7] China-Financed Hydroelectric Power Plant Faces Popular Opposition in Mongolia. Critics say the Erdeneburen hydroelectric power plant, which will be Mongolia’s largest, risks devastating crucial wetlands. Bolor Lkhaajav. August 24, 2022. The Diplomat.

[9] Rivers Without Boundaries

Local people stopped Chinese drilling machinery at the site of Erdeneburen HPP construction

October 9, 2022, 7:41 am

The Third Pole - Analysis: Mongolia plans ruinous water infrastructure glut

Eugene Simonov, Sukhgerel Dugersuren

June 7, 2021

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[3] Facebook page of opposition campaign

[5] Tweet of Mary Lawlor UN Special Rapporteur HRDs


UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders

[8] Mongolia: Stop reprisals against human rights defender Sukhgerel Dugersuren. 18/08/2022OPEN LETTERHuman Rights Defenders

Meta information

Contributor:EJAtlas team members
Last update10/10/2022
Conflict ID:6124



Pastoralist communities in Uliast Bagh

Pastoralist communities in Uliast Bagh. The best pastures of Uliast Bagh will be flooded by the Erdeneburen reservoir (Images © Degeree Studio)

Sukhgerel Dugersuren

Pastoralist communities in Uliast Bagh. The best pastures of Uliast Bagh will be flooded by the Erdeneburen reservoir (Images © Degeree Studio)