VII.24 Lake Baikal (Russian Federation)
At its twenty-second session, the Bureau was informed that a number of laws for the national protection of the Lake existed and that the Duma had adopted the Federal Law on "The Protection of the Baikal Lake" which was, however, vetoed by the President. The Federal Law had been tabled for a third reading in the Duma, taking into account comments made by the President's intervention. In addition to the legal concerns, the authorities had not come to any conclusions regarding the reprofiling of the Pulp and Paper Mill at Baikalsk, one of the main polluters of the Lake. The Observer of the Russian Delegation attending the Bureau session in June 1998 pointed out that the situation at Lake Baikal is of major concern, due to its unresolved legal status, continuing and increasing pollution, lack of resources for management and monitoring, and logging and other negative factors. The Observer was of the view that the site is under serious threat and that the State Party would not oppose inclusion of the site in the List of World Heritage Danger.
The Bureau had expressed its serious concerns over the threats to the integrity of Lake Baikal, and urged the State Party to inform the Centre, before 15 September 1998, of the status of the Baikal Law and its adoption as well as a time table for its implementation. The Bureau drew the attention of the Russian authorities to paragraphs 82-89 of the Operational Guidelines ("Procedure for the Inclusion of Properties in the List of World Heritage in Danger") and invited them to prepare a programme of corrective measures for submission to its twenty-second extraordinary session.
The Bureau was informed that the State Committee for the Environment had indicated, on 17 November 1998, that the Law is currently being revised and that, according to the UNESCO Office, Moscow, the reason for the revision was the need to include financial measures to implement the Law. The revision has been done both by the Region of Irkutsk and the Buryat Republic and has been through the Duma. It is expected that the Law will be approved in the near future. Concerning the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, the Minister for Economy proposed an international competition to transform the mill. The State Committee however, indicated that there is no solution yet and the closing of the mill would aggravate the social problems of the region. Monitoring of the site is underway, despite financial problems. IUCN informed the Bureau that it does not recommend the inclusion of Lake Baikal in the List of World Heritage in Danger at present.
The Observer of the Russian Federation stated that the law is being processed and that monitoring of the state of conservation of the site is underway. He informed the Committee that a meeting of the Governmental Baikal Commission is scheduled for late December 1998. He underlined that the Russian Federation tries to fulfil its obligations under the World Heritage Convention and to protect the site.
The Committee took note of the information provided by the State Committee for the Environment and IUCN. It expressed its serious concerns about the problems of the site as indicated in the report of the twenty-second session of the Bureau. The Committee re-iterated its requests made at the time of the inscription of the site, in particular the urgent need to re-profile the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill and the adoption of the Baikal Law. The Committee noted that IUCN does not recommend inclusion of the Lake Baikal in the List of World Heritage in Danger at present.