Situated in south-east Siberia, the 3.15-million-ha Lake Baikal is the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 m) lake in the world. It contains 20% of the world's total unfrozen freshwater reserves. Baikal is home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
What are the main environmental concerns for the lake?
The ongoing operation of the Baykalsk pulp and paper mill, located directly on the shore line, bleaching paper with chlorine and discharging waste into Baikal.
The proposed construction of the world's first International Uranium Enrichment Center at an existing nuclear facility in Angarsk, 95 km from the lake's shores. After enrichment, 90 percent of the radioactive material would be left in the Lake Baikal region for storage, constituting potential danger to humans and contaminating rivers and lakes.
What have been the steps UNEP has taken to tackle the issues in the region?
In 2009-2010, UNEP, together with the Center for International Projects and Buryat Regional Institutions, implemented a 150,000 USD project on the development of specially protected areas in the Republic of Buryatia.
The main goals are to:
- promote an Information and Reference system of Buryatia’s specially protected areas;
- make recommendations on how the specially protected areas should be maintained;
- inform the public on the specially protected areas, issuing leaflets and publishing scientific magazines.