Dangers of Baikal

for Stern, Germany 2021


The natural area of the Lake Baikal is negatively affected by a number of factors: 

1.5-1.8 million tourists visit Baikal every year.
Most wastewater is discharged into the lake without treatment. In the largest tourist centers on the shores of Lake Baikal, for example, in the village of Listvyanka and on the island of Olkhon, sewage treatment facilities are almost completely absent.
The best treatment facilities in Baikalsk discharge effluent with an excess of 400 times the permissible concentrations.
In the lake, the sponges that filter the water are disappearing en masse. Scientists from the Limnological Institute of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences suggest that Baikal may lose its transparency in the coming years.
Permission to build tourist facilities in unaffected natural areas may further worsen the current situation and lead to the threat of extinction of Red Book species. 

About 7 million tons of toxic waste from the Baikalsk pulp and paper mill is stored in old lakeside storage tanks. The factory closed in 2013. The waste disposal method has not yet been approved. The storage tanks are located in an area at high risk of mudslides. This can lead to catastrophic destruction of storage tanks and the direct release of toxic waste into the lake. Ecologists have already recorded the leakage of waste into the lake, passing through the bottom of obsolete sedimentation tanks into groundwater, and from there into the lake. 

Around the lake, there are still large landfills for household waste. 

Massive cutting leads to serious violations of the water-regulating role of the forest canopy.
The Irkutsk region occupies a leading position in Russia in terms of illegal deforestation. Many different schemes are used – going beyond the limits of the leased territory and terms of the license, logging under the guise of sanitary works.
Under cover of sanitary cuts in the Tukolon reserve, there has been massive deforestation. The Minister of the Forest Complex of the Irkutsk region, Sergei Severda, was sentenced to a prison term in this case. 

Last year a new list of prohibited activities in the ecological zone of the Baikal Natural Territory was signed. Unlike the “prohibiting” title, a number of items in the list:
– legitimizes the construction in urban areas of water protection zones, as well as in unaffected natural areas. This makes it possible to legalize tourist facilities built illegally. 

– Easing of requirements for the management of accumulated waste
– Legalization of logging within the framework of sanitary logging 

Experts from the international coalition “Rivers Without Borders” point out that the legal protection of Baikal has been seriously weakened due to the constant lobbying efforts of land and real estate speculators, as well as big business.