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Why the Lake Baikal May Be Inscribed on the Danger List in 2021? Report to UNESCO compiled by Rivers without Boundaries International Coalition (RwB) and Greenpeace Russia

Authors:
  • Daursky Biosphere Reserve

Abstract

Civil society organizations are addressing the World Heritage Center due to extremely worrying new developments that put the Lake Baikal World Heritage Site at immediate risk. This is both a risk of extreme pollution as well as of deterioration of the key legal norms protecting the Lake. The report on the site’s State of Conservation submitted by Russia in December 2019 has answered only a few of the World Heritage Committee’s questions listed in Decision 42 COM 7B.76 . The report provides a relevant answer to only one out of the 11 specific questions raised by the Committee in 2018: it confirms that mining license for Kholodnenskoye zinc deposit was revoked. It further contains inaccurate or irrelevant information on 4 more items: 1. Environmental assessment of water-level regulation (see paragraph VII of this report); 2. Measures to control forest fires (alarming statistics from 2019 is absent. paragraph X); 3. Management planning guidelines for protected areas (see paragraph VI); 4. Joint strategic assessment of hydropower planned in Mongolia (see paragraph VII). The 2019 report ignores Committee’s requests that pertain to: 1) Ecological monitoring system for Lake Baikal Ecosystem(see paragraph II); 2) Forest-management plans; 3) Assessment of wildfire impacts on the ecosystem (see paragraph X); 4) EIAs for each Special Economic (tourism) Zones (see paragraph VIII) ; 5) Assessment of impacts of reducing the Baikal Water Protection Zone; 6) The EIA for remediation of the former Baikal pulp-and-paper mill (see paragraph VIII). Besides these previously recorded problematic issues there are several new items, which, likely, require urgent attention of the World Heritage Center and Committee: • Planning of new alignment for the Power of Siberia Pipeline (see paragraph I); • President’s new Order on Lake Baikal (see paragraph II); • Baikal sub-project of the National Project “Ecology” (see paragraph III); • New “Norms of Allowable Impact on the Lake Baikal Unique Ecosystem” (see paragraph IV); • Proposals for overhaul of the legal environmental protection norms related to Lake Baikal and other WH properties. (see paragraph V); • Reform of the Governance System for the World Heritage site (see paragraph VI). The document combines the Summary of full CSO Report was submitted on February 20, 2020 and the communication on new threats issued on the March 31, 2020.
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Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia is the deepest and (by volume) largest lake on Earth. Among the most ancient lakes, it is home to thousands of endemic species. Lake Baikal is well‐known for its water purity, especially its dominant deep‐water layers, which consist of pristine, drinking‐quality water and is inhabited by unique endemics with enormous biodiversity. But some coastal sites of this giant lake (mainly localized in isolated shallow bays and littoral zones close to settlements and industrial sites) are suffering from an environmental crisis that threatens the water's quality and the ecosystem it supports. As part of the global ecosystem, Lake Baikal is already facing significant impacts from global climate change, which, in turn, increase the risks and consequences of local anthropogenic effects. Although the lake is protected by federal law, human activities are nevertheless having a growing negative impact on its ecosystem. Political, economic, and social factors result in cascading natural consequences in water quality, coastal sustainability, pollution sinks, water level management, forest maintenance, fire control and biodiversity. While Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, known and valued around the world, it remains vulnerable to worsening threats that must be addressed if humanity is to preserve this unique ecosystem and its endemic species into the future. This article is categorized under: • Human Water Abstract Lake Baikal (Photo credit: Kate Pride Brown).
Heritage Dammed: Water Infrastructure Impacts on World Heritage Sites and Free Flowing Rivers. Civil Society Report to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and Parties of the World Heritage Convention
  • Lake Baikal
i Lake Baikal World Heritage -a Victim of Climate Change and Hydropower. Pages 54-58. In Eugene Simonov and Stephan Dompke (editors) Heritage Dammed: Water Infrastructure Impacts on World Heritage Sites and Free Flowing Rivers. Civil Society Report to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and Parties of the World Heritage Convention. Moscow 2019;
contains comprehensive list of scientific sources with evidence and characteristics of ecological crisis
  • O A Timoshkin
iii O.A. Timoshkin https://irk.today/2019/12/11/uchenyj-so-ran-u-bajkala-nalico-vse-priznaki-bolezni/ (contains comprehensive list of scientific sources with evidence and characteristics of ecological crisis).
(contains comprehensive list of scientific sources with evidence and characteristics of ecological crisis) ix Closure of the mill and site rehab has been subject to at least 10 WHC Decisions
  • V P Stupin
vi Many WH Committee decisions called for development of WH management plan e.g. Decision: 38 COM 7B.76. vii WHC Decision 41 COM 7B.6 and 42COM 7B.76 on monitoring viii O.A. Timoshkin https://irk.today/2019/12/11/uchenyj-so-ran-u-bajkala-nalico-vse-priznaki-bolezni/ (contains comprehensive list of scientific sources with evidence and characteristics of ecological crisis) ix Closure of the mill and site rehab has been subject to at least 10 WHC Decisions. x https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2019/07/30/baikalsk-1/ and Stupin, V.P. et al 2018. System of geo-information mapping of debris flows hazard in the southern Baikal region. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science 194 102002. xi https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3029729/russia-acts-protect-lake-baikal-amid-anger-moscowconcerns xii https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/09/05/giant-putin-bust-unveiled-near-lake-baikal-a67171 xiii http://www.transrivers.org/2019/2587/ xiv https://baikalproc.ru/prokuratura-boretsya-za-vozvrashhenie-v-gosudarstvennuyu-sobstvennost-chasti-chivyrkujskogozaliva/ xv https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/06/26/russia-will-restrict-lake-baikal-tourism-putin-aide-says-a66163 xvi "National Projects" cover all key aspects of governance in Russia and are the new central focus of the activities of Russian Government. Most environmental expenditures are channeled through NP "Ecology". xvii http://audit.gov.ru/press_center/news/35228
for-receiving-comments-on-the-draft-terms-of-reference-of-regional-environmental-assessment-for-orkhon-waterdiversion-and-shuren-hydropower-plant
  • O A Timoshkin
xx O.A. Timoshkin https://irk.today/2019/12/11/uchenyj-so-ran-u-bajkala-nalico-vse-priznaki-bolezni/ xxi See https://regulation.gov.ru/projects?type=ListView#npa=98734 xxii https://drive.google.com/open?id=16-nseGFGQ9oljryPUfOYor0HoV1fZ22l and http://www.minis.mn/en/p/finalperiod-for-receiving-comments-on-the-draft-terms-of-reference-of-regional-environmental-assessment-for-orkhon-waterdiversion-and-shuren-hydropower-plant-projects xxiii https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/mongolia/brief/mongolia-mining-infrastructure-investment-support-project xxiv http://publication.pravo.gov.ru/Document/View/0001201912040002 xxv http://www.transrivers.org/2019/2572/ xxvi Decisions 41 COM 7B.6 on Egiin Gol assessments xxvii 2018 State of conservation report by the State Party https://whc.unesco.org/document/165638 xxviii See 2018 Report by the State Party https://whc.unesco.org/document/165638 xxixHttps://www.enplusgroup.com/upload/iblock/fce/En+%20Group%202018%20Sustainability%20Report%20ENG.pdf (last accessed in November 2019) xxx https://blogs.agu.org/landslideblog/2019/07/30/baikalsk-1/ xxxihttps://zakupki.gov.ru/epz/order/notice/ok44/view/documents.html?regNumber=0134300027517000089 xxxii http://www.transrivers.org/2019/2567/