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

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Mining, Oil/Gas Exploration

Additional Details:

Federal Law; pollution; pulp and paper mill, decline in seal population; Baikal Commission; oil and gas pipeline

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2004

Following the invitation by the Russian authorities, as requested by the Committee (26 COM 21(b) 19 and 27 COM 7B.19), the high-level mission took place with meetings in the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation from 11-12 November 2003. The Director General of IUCN, the Director of the Centre, the Director of the UNESCO Moscow Office, The Chief of the Europe and North America Unit of the Centre, the Head of the IUCN Moscow Office, a protected area specialist of IUCN and a programme specialist from the UNESCO Moscow Office participated in the mission. The goal of the meeting was to discuss key issues related to the conservation of the Lake Baikal World Heritage property.

 

During this meeting the representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation stressed the relevance of the cooperation with the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and IUCN and the importance of developing it further. They presented comprehensive information on issues related to the current state of conservation of this World Heritage property and measures undertaken by Russian authorities, both at the national and local levels, to address these issues. They also confirmed their preparedness to present, according to the requests of the 26th and 27th sessions of the World Heritage Committee, a detailed report on the state of conservation of the Lake Baikal World Heritage property, and proposed to consider a joint pilot project with the participation of UNESCO and IUCN, aimed at addressing issues of concern relating to the conservation of Lake Baikal.

Following this meeting the State Party submitted, on 10 March 2004, a detailed state of conservation Report outlining key actions implemented on the following issues:

 

(a)  Implementation of the Federal Law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”: 

Eight new enactments have been adopted, including key regulations on the ecological zoning for Lake Baikal; the limits of water level in Lake Baikal under economical activities; and the protection regime for endemic species of plants and animals in Lake Baikal. Four more legislative documents have been prepared on key issues such as the boundaries of the ecological zones, the list of harmful substances which use is forbidden or regulated in Lake Baikal, and the standards of maximum allowable harmful impacts on the Lake Baikal.  However, it is not clear from the report whether or not the ecological zoning for Lake Baikal has been completed and formally approved, which is fundamental for the application of a number of these regulations.

 

(b)  Protection regimes:

Plans for the protection and rational use of natural resources have been elaborated for the Baikal basin, the Selenga river basin, and for water treatment and sanitation of the communities and recreational areas in the Central Ecological Zone of Lake Baikal.  A feasibility study has been prepared on how to minimize impacts from ships in Lake Baikal.

 

(c)  Baikal Commission: 

Key functions assumed by this commission are now under the mandate of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation, which is vested with the necessary authority to undertake this task.

 

(d)  Ecological monitoring: 

A number of programmes have been implemented for the last three years to assess the ecological conditions of Lake Baikal, including monitoring water quality and forest changes using satellite images.  Results from monitoring indicate that the quality of the water in Lake Baikal has not substantially changed in the last 5-8 years and that it still remains one of the cleanest water bodies on Earth.

 

(e)  Gas/Oil Pipelines:

The State Party report noted that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for this project, which had considered its potential impacts on Lake Baikal as well as issues of environmental safety in the course of construction and operation of the pipelines, was not approved by the Federal Commission that reviewed it. This Commission identified a number of risks associated with the development of this project in an area of high geological instability and where earthquakes are quite common.  Also, the different routes proposed were passing through strictly protected areas, which are forbidden under the Federal Law for the Protection of the Environment.

 

(f)  Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill: 

A 10 year integrated programme for the re-profiling of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill has been designed and its first phase is under implementation.  The first phase includes the development of a closed water recycling system which excludes industrial effluents from entering Lake Baikal.  The total investment for the first phase is US$33,500,000, of which US$11,100,000 is provided by the joint-venture enterprise managing the mill.  The State Party has also signed an agreement with the World Bank to obtain additional support for this long-term programme.  Measures to reduce atmospheric pollution associated with the mill’s emissions have also been implemented.

 

(g)  Pollution from the Selenga River: 

This continues to be a problem due to the pollution associated with the population and related socio-economic activities within the Selenga River basin.  It is important to note that this basin is shared with the State Party of Mongolia, where the Selenga River basin occupies more than 20% of Mongolia’s territory, and 40% of the total runoff of this river comes from this country.  According to the results from hydro-chemical and hydro-biological monitoring implemented in 2001-2003 the level of pollution has not changed significantly and corresponds, according to the standards established for the Russian Federation, to Class III (moderate pollution).  In some tributaries of the Selenga River there have been slight improvements in water quality.  As the Selenga River is a key source of pollution for Lake Baikal and it is also of high importance for the maintenance of key fish species that breed upstream along its waters, this issue has been included as a priority activity under the Russian-Mongolian Intergovernmental Agreement signed in 1995.

 

(h)  Baikal Seal Population:

According to the East Siberian Fishing Center the Baikal seal population in the period 1996-2000 ranged from 97,000 to 122,000, however there is indirect evidence of a slow population decrease.  The State Party report stressed that there is not enough scientific evidence to relate this trend to human impacts and that this decrease could result from biological changes in the population.  The State Party report does not provide information on the level of enforcement of hunting quotas and on the implementation of previous Committee’s recommendations to provide training to hunters to avoid unnecessary deaths of animals that are wounded during hunting.

 

(i)  Protected Areas: 

It is reported that the main impacts on the protected areas existing within the World Heritage properties is associated with forest fires (see point below).  The GEF project on the conservation of biological diversity in the Russian Federation provides support for the management of these areas, including patrolling and enforcement of protection. 

 

(j)  Forest fires:

It is reported that the number of fires in 2003 increased 1.8 times when compared with that of 2002 and the area affected by fires increased 15.8 times.  The State Party provided additional funding of US$1,228,150 in the fourth quarter of 2003; however it was insufficient to control all fires that occurred in this period.  According to the Russian Committee on Hydrometeorology the high number of fires is associated with the worst dry season reported in Russia for the last 108 years.  The Ministry of Natural Resources, the Ministry for Emergencies and the Ministry of Defence have prepared with the Government of the Buryat Republic a Fire-Prevention and Mitigation Plan for 2004 which includes reinforcing the existing capacities for forest fires at the local level and doubled the number of fire prevention centres able to use satellite information for forest fire fighting and prevention.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

N/A

Decision Adopted: 28 COM 15B.22

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Recalling the recommendation of the report of the monitoring mission in 2001 to include the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger,

2. Welcomes the collaboration between the Russian authorities, IUCN and the World Heritage Centre in addressing co-operation and communication issues;

3. Notes the results of the high-level mission and the detailed report provided by the Russian authorities on 10 March 2004 and acknowledges the efforts of the State Party in enhancing the conservation of this property;

4. Requests, while noting the complex environmental and socio-economic issues associated to the conservation and development of Lake Baikal, that:
a) the State Party provide further clarification on the level of implementation of the ecological zoning for Lake Baikal and its adoption under the Federal Law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”,
b) the State Party continue providing to each session of the Committee reports on the state of conservation of the property, on progress achieved on the different programmes implemented in the property, particularly on the reprofiling of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, and the results of the ecological monitoring programme and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) project that is under implementation in the area,
c) the States Parties of the Russian Federation and Mongolia enhance their cooperation in designing and implementing a plan to reduce the sources of pollution occurring in the Selenga River Basin; the two States Parties may wish to submit a request for International Assistance from the World Heritage Fund to support the planning phase of this co-operation,
d) the State Party implement previous recommendations of the Committee to provide training to hunters to avoid unnecessary deaths of animals that are wounded during hunting,
e) the State Party, working with the World Heritage Centre and IUCN, develop a long-term project proposal oriented towards obtaining additional financial resources for the conservation and sustainable development of Lake Baikal; such a proposal may include a component to support the joint efforts of the States Parties of the Russian Federation and Mongolia to address the pollution of the Selenga River.

5. Notes that the outcome of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) for the proposed transportation routes which was reported to the Mission was negative and requests that any future proposal avoids the World Heritage property and that no route is selected through the watershed of Lake Baikal without first undertaking a comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) to international standards;

6. Further notes the concerns regarding the potential impact of oil and gas pipelines on the outstanding universal value of the property and considers that any such proposal should undergo a comprehensive Environment Impact Assessment to international standards;

7. Requests the State Party to take measures to minimize and, preferably eliminate all direct and indirect threats to the World Heritage property;

8. Further requests the State Party to provide in co-operation with the IUCN an upto- date report to the World Heritage Centre including on any decisions or proposed alternative to the oil and gas transportation route and the issues noted under paragraph 4 above by 1 February 2005, for examination by the Committee at its 29th session in 2005.