1.         Lake Baikal (Russian Federation) (N 754)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1996

Criteria  (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/754/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0 (from 1990-2000)
Total amount approved: USD 33,200
For details, see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/754/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

UNESCO mission 1998; UNESCO / IUCN mission 2001.

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Pollution; Excess timber harvesting; Gas and oil pipeline; Excess fishing.

Illustrative material  see page http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/754/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2005

Following the decisions of the Committee and as a follow-up to the recommendations of the 2001 UNESCO/IUCN mission and the high-level mission to Moscow (November 2003), the State Party provided a report dated 27 January 2005.  The report outlines key actions implemented on the following issues:

Level of implementation of the Federal Law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”:  It is reported that a draft of the Russian Federation Government order has been elaborated with the aim of adjusting the border to the central ecological zone of the Baikal Natural Area with the borders of the World Heritage property.  The draft is currently under consideration.

Protection programmes: It is reported that a number of ongoing initiatives are being realised to protect the Lake Baikal and the Baikal natural area.  The State Party informed that these measures promote full realization of the federal law on the protection of Lake Baikal.  It is hoped that these measures will eventually decrease environmental pollution levels, eliminate negative impacts of caving processes and protect the population and national economy units from the waters negative impact.

Global Ecological Fund (GEF) Project:  Key results emanating from this project are: the creation of a common basis wildlife conservation, for affiliation of the efforts of the different interested parties, groups and sectors of the community; as a result of the implementation of more than 380 sub-projects. The investment climate in the field of nature protection has been improved; a small grants programme has been implemented ensuring community support for project implementation.  A number of concrete measures were undertaken to conserve species and their habitats, create mechanisms and tools of wildlife conservation, and ensure coordination and environmental activity.

Ecological monitoring: A programme on the state ecological monitoring has been elaborated in collaboration with experts from 21 organizations and will work jointly with 39 organizations that are carrying out monitoring activities.  Empirical data obtained from the different organizations will be compiled into a single database.

International Cooperation with the State Party of Mongolia: The Russian-Mongolian Agreement on protection and transboundary water use has been implemented.  Progress has been made in rational water use and protection from pollution and depletion of water bodies; analysis and assessment of their waters quality and prediction of the transboundary water status.  There have been several follow-up initiatives between the Russian and Mongolian authorities relating to the Selenga River basin including workshops and seminars to discuss emerging issues.

Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill:  The first stage of the 10-year integrated programme for the re-profiling of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill reported last year, will be completed in 2005.  State authorities and the Ministry of Industry and Sciences have already granted approval.  Stages two and three are expected to be finalised in 2008 and 2010 respectively.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN received information regarding a planned Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean oil pipeline through the Lake Baikal region.  The reports indicate that the Russian oil company Transneft is reconsidering its plan to build an oil pipeline through the seismically active Severomuisky Range near Lake Baikal.  IUCN notes that there are fragile ecosystems in the Lake Baikal basin.  A number of NGO’s and concerned individuals have raised concerns that the pipeline and its proposed route through the Severomuisky Range could be damaged by earthquakes, landslides, mudflows, and other geological events which would cause both considerable economic losses and irreversible pollution of the Lake Baikal watershed. 

No formal response to the oil pipeline construction has been received from the State Party and the World Heritage Centre sent a reminder letter dated 25 April 2005 to the Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation on this matter.

Although the details of this construction are not clear, preliminary information indicates that plans for the construction are already underway and are progressing rapidly, with substantial financial backing having been guaranteed by the Japanese government and banks.  The Committee, at its 28th session, raised concerns regarding the potential impact of oil and gas pipelines on the outstanding universal value of the property, considering that such a proposal should undergo a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment.

Both The World Heritage Centre and IUCN received in April 2004 new information related to the project to speed up the construction of the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean Pipeline.  The original oil pipeline project proposing that the pipe would run just a few kilometers away from the shoreline of Baikal (Angarsk-Nakhodka, passing to the north of the Lake) and through the World Heritage property, was rejected by the Federal Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Commission, which happened in October 2003, Transneft, the company that was developing the project, came up with an alternative that moved the pipeline beyond the borders of the World Heritage property “Lake Baikal”.  The EIA of the “alternative” variant started on 19 December 2003 under Order 1130 of the Natural Resources Ministry and in four months ended with a positive verdict of the Federal EIA Commission; despite the fact that the pipeline crosses a large tributary of the lake, the river Verkhnaya (Upper) Angara, and despite reported complaints by different NGO’s on numerous violations of EIA legislation committed in the course of mandatory public hearings of the project.  In September 2004 Greenpeace and a number of other national and regional Russian NGOs including WWF, Green Cross, Social and Ecological Union requested to review the public Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of the pipeline, Transneft refused to provide the project materials for public EIA to all of the above organizations.

On 23 November 2004, more than 20 Russian national and regional environmental and human-rights NGOs appealed in an open letter to the President of the Russian Federation bringing to his attention numerous violations of the legislation committed by the Federal Service for Ecological, Technological and Atomic Super vision (FSETAN or Rostechnadzor) and Transneft.  The letter asked the President to instruct appropriate governmental bodies to run an investigation.  Transneft agreed to meet with some of the leading Russian NGOs (Greenpeace, WWF, Social and Ecological Union and Moscow-based Ecojuris).  The meeting took place on 2 December 2004, where Transneft’s Vice President accepted a list of demands of NGOs including access to all project papers that should be available to the public under the law, due consideration of public recommendations to the project and full involvement of NGOs besides Public Ecology at the stage of EIA of the Technical and Economic Aspects of the construction of the pipeline (Stage II of the Feasibility Study).  However, the company has not yet delivered on any of those demands.  Despite numerous protests of the public and orders of the Prosecutor’s Office, on 31 December, 2004, the Prime Minister signed Governmental Resolution No.  1737-r that defined the final route of the VSTO pipeline, i.e.  Taishet (Irkutsk Region) – Skovorodino (Amur Region) – Perevoznaya (Primorye Region).

Despite broad opposition and incomplete planning and design process, construction works have begun.  In an interview of 17 February 2005 to Moscow Times the President of Transneft said that “the project has started and over 4,000 workers are already working along the pipeline route”.  This was confirmed later on by Vice Governor of the Primorye Region who said there was a strict order from the federal government to put the oil terminal on the Sea of Japan by August – September 2005.  While the oil pipeline is being built, an increased volume of oil will be transported by rail.  This is even more dangerous to the integrity of Lake Baikal as the existing railway system runs less than 200 metres away from the shoreline. 

The route now proposed for the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean pipeline can be characterized by complicated geological, hydrological and seismic conditions.  On the major part of the route, the designers have planned an underground type of the pipeline; above the ground method will be used only on 583 km of the route.  On the way, the pipeline will cross over 435km of bogs and marsh lands, over 1,000km of bedrock and semi-bedrock terrain areas, areas of permafrost, landslide- and mudflow-prone areas, elevated terrain with steep slopes.  The route runs over 174 small and large rivers, 43 roads and 39 railways.  The construction area of the Taishet-Perevoznaya pipeline crosses rivers of basins of Angara and Lena rivers, Lake Baikal and river Amur.  The pipe crosses a large number of water streams, largest of which include Upper Angara, Kirenga, Vitim. Olekma, Zeya, Bureya, Amur and Ussury rivers.

The oil pipeline crosses seismically active areas there geological divides run perpendicular to one another.  The length of areas where there are on-going geological processes (with seismic activity of 5 to 9 on the Richter scale) is 2,585.6km or 66% of the total length of the pipeline.  The on-going geological processes may make construction and operation of the pipeline much more complicated.

The pipeline route runs through a mountainous landscape presenting incredibly complex geo-engineering conditions (a high level of initial seismic activity of up to 9 degrees on the Richter scale in combination with a high concentration of active tectonic faults, widespread areas of permafrost, and considerable risk of mudflows and avalanches).  As yet, oil pipelines have never been constructed in such difficult natural conditions in the Russian Federation.  At the same time, the state of existing “Transneft” pipelines in Irkutsk Oblast are a serious cause for concern: over the period 1993-2001 six major oil spills, with a total approximate volume of 42 thousand tons of crude oil, were officially registered and made public (letter from the Irkutsk Regional Branch of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation 23.08.02 # 4-9-758).

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 29 COM 7B.19

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-05/29.COM/7B.Rev,

2. Recalling its Decision 28 COM 15B.22 adopted at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004);

3. Commends the States Parties of the Russian Federation and Mongolia for their efforts in enhancing their co-operation in order to implement, as required by the Committee at its 28th session (Suzhou, 2004) a plan to reduce sources of pollution in the Selenga River Basin;

4. Notes with serious concern new information received on the construction of the Eastern Siberia – Pacific Ocean pipeline;

5. Notes that the State Party of the Russian Federation provided an update on the status of the planned oil pipeline and on potential or given impacts to the integrity of Lake Baikal;

6. Urges the State Party to inform the World Heritage Centre about the details of the pipeline construction project and requests the authorities to take measures to eliminate all direct and indirect threats to the World Heritage property;

7. Notes the serious concerns regarding the potential impact of the proposed new route for the oil and gas pipeline on the outstanding universal value of the property and considers that, according to paragraph 180 b of the Operational Guidelines, any pipeline development crossing the watershed of Lake Baikal and main tributaries would make the case for inscription of Lake Baikal on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

8. Requests the State Party to provide, as a matter of urgency, detailed information on the construction of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline, and to invite a joint mission of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to the property at the appropriate time;

9. Further requests, for examination by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006), that :

a) the State Party provide a detailed report on the current situation of the property to the World Heritage Centre by 1 February 2006;

b) IUCN provide a detailed report, including a sound analysis of environmental and other risks, in view of the potential threats to the outstanding universal value of the property when the pipeline crosses the watershed of Lake Baikal and main tributaries; and

c) the World Heritage Centre and IUCN report on the outcome of their joint mission referred to in paragraph 8;

10. Decides that, on the basis of the information referred to in paragraph 9, the Committee may consider the inscription of Lake Baikal on the List of World Heritage in Danger.