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

1998: World Heritage Centre monitoring mission; 2001: Joint UNESCO/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; 2005: Joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission; 2011: Joint UNESCO/IUCN Mission; 2015: IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

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

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2018

On 1 February 2018, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation of the property, which is available at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/754/documents and reports the following:

On 14 November 2017, the World Heritage Centre also received information on a draft resolution by the government of the Russian Federation extending the use of increased limits on the fluctuation of water levels of Lake Baikal in 2018-2020. On 23 April 2018, the World Heritage Centre sent a letter to the State Party requesting clarifications with regards to the recently adopted reduction of the water protection zone of Lake Baikal, as well as concerns expressed by third parties regarding water level management.

On 31 January 2018, the State Party of Mongolia informed the World Heritage Centre that an additional study on the impacts of the Egiin Gol hydropower plant project (EGHPP) on Selenga River and on the biodiversity of the property is planned to commence in 2018. Referring to an EIA on EGHPP, submitted in May 2017, the State Party of Mongolia expects negligible impacts on the water volume of Lake Baikal and further reports that a joint Mongolian-Russian working group has been established to address issues concerning hydro-power facilities planned in the Selenga River basin.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

While it is reported that a comprehensive study preceded the draft resolution extending the use of increased limits to fluctuation of water levels, this study has not been submitted for review to the World Heritage Centre. Furthermore, the EIA, which was requested in Decision 41 COM 7B.6, was reportedly only partially completed. Hence, the concern about potential impacts on the OUV of the property remains and it is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to refrain from any further changes to the legislation regulating the fluctuation of water level of Lake Baikal until the impacts of all existing water use and management regulations on the OUV of the property are fully understood through a complete and comprehensive EIA, in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and that the EIA is submitted in due course to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN.

It is of significant concern that latent eutrophication near recreational areas is found to be one of the drivers for algal blooms and decreasing fish stocks. While the existing monitoring and research programmes aimed at identifying stressors to the ecosystem are noted, it is recommended that the Committee reiterate its request to the State Party to develop a property-wide ecological monitoring system in order to identify the scale and causes of such changes and the responses required to preserve the ecological integrity of the property. In this regard, the recently adopted reduction in area of the water protection zone of Lake Baikal raises serious concerns as this might potentially increase pressures on already disturbed ecosystems. It is therefore recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to provide detailed information on the adopted changes, including an EIA containing a specific assessment of potential impact on the OUV of the property. Similarly, it is regrettable that the World Heritage Centre neither received the results of the EIAs for the Special Economic Zones (SEZ) located within or overlapping with the property, nor any information on a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) on the cumulative impacts of existing and future developments, as requested in Decision 41 COM 7B.6. Therefore, it is recommended that the Committee urge the State Party to undertake these assessments and to submit them to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN.

Concerning the site of the former Baikal pulp and paper mill, it is appreciated that an Action Plan for its remediation has been developed and that public consultations on a planned EIA have been held. Recalling previous decisions of the Committee, it is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to include in the EIA an assessment of possible options for the future use of the site and their possible impacts on the OUV of the property to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN.

While wildfires have been successfully contained and their extent has been limited compared to the major outbreak of 2015, their frequent occurrence demonstrates the persistent high risk of fire. It is recalled that forest management and forest fire control measures were planned to be reformed in 2017-2018. In its Decision 40 COM 7B.97, the Committee had urged the State Party to assess the impacts from the fires on the lake ecosystem and encouraged it to elaborate new guidelines for future management plans in order to develop an Integrated Management Plan for the entire property, which should also include a fire management and prevention plan. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to provide an update on these matters.

It is welcome that, according to information publically available on the official website of the federal agency responsible for issuing licenses for mineral resource extraction, the license for Kholodninskoe deposit has been revoked. It is recommended that the Committee request the State Party to confirm this information given that it has not reported on this matter.

Concerning potential hydro-power projects in the Selenga River system, the planned additional study on the impacts of EGHPP on the biodiversity of the property is welcome. To be in line with the findings and recommendations of the 2015 mission, this study should especially take into account impacts on the habitats of endangered migratory species of the Selenga/Lake Baikal complex and be submitted to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN. The enhanced cooperation between the States Parties of Mongolia and the Russian Federation through a joint working group for issues related to hydro-power projects is likewise welcome. It is recommended that such cooperation supports the implementation of the 2015 mission recommendations and feeds into the development of a joint transboundary SEA, which should precede and guide the elaboration of EIAs for any specific hydropower and water management projects, including the planned Shuren hydropower and Orkhon river project, as repeatedly requested by the Committee.

Decision Adopted: 42 COM 7B.76

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/18/42.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 41 COM 7B.6, adopted at its 41st session (Krakow, 2017),
  3. Noting with serious concern the resolution extending the use of increased limits on the fluctuation between the maximum and minimum water levels of Lake Baikal for 2018-2020, urges the State Party to stop introducing further changes of the limits on fluctuation until the impacts of all existing water use and management regulations on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property are fully understood through a complete and comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), undertaken in line with IUCN’s World Heritage Advice Note on Environmental Assessment, and requests the State Party to submit this EIA to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, by 1 December 2019;
  4. Welcomes the information, publically available on the official website of the federal agency responsible for issuing licenses for mineral resources extraction, that the mining license for Kholodninskoe deposit has been revoked and also requests the State Party to confirm this information;
  5. Also welcomes the environmental monitoring activities undertaken at the property, but notes with significant concern the reported algal blooms and decreases in fish stocks, and reiterates its request to the State Party to develop a property-wide ecological monitoring system in order to identify the scale and causes of such changes and the responses required to preserve the ecological integrity of the property;
  6. Also notes with serious concern the reported reduction in area of the water protection zone of Lake Baikal, and also urges the State Party to provide detailed information on these changes and their potential to impact on the OUV of the property;
  7. Also requests the State Party to provide an update on:
    1. Planned forest management and forest fire control measures,
    2. Assessed impacts from past fires on the lake ecosystem, and
    3. Preparation of guidelines for the future development of management plans for all protected areas around Lake Baikal, with a view to develop an Integrated Management Plan for the whole property, including a fire management and prevention plan;
  8. Regrets that the State Party did not submit either the results of the EIAs for each Special Economic Zone (SEZ) located within or overlapping with the property or a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for all SEZs regarding existing and future developments and their cumulative impacts on the OUV of the property, and further urges the State Party to complete these assessments as a matter of priority and to submit them to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, as soon as they are available;
  9. Appreciates the development of an Action Plan for the remediation of the former Baikal pulp and paper mill site as well as the consultations for an EIA, and further requests the State Party to submit this EIA, including an assessment of possible options for the future uses of the site and their potential impacts on the OUV of the property, to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, by 1 December 2019;
  10. Takes note of the intention of the State Party of Mongolia to undertake an additional study on the impacts of the Egiin Gol hydropower plant project (EGHPP), including impacts on the biodiversity of the property, and requests furthermore the State Party of Mongolia to take into account the findings and recommendations of the 2015 mission, especially regarding assessing impacts on the habitats of endangered migratory freshwater species of the Selenga/Lake Baikal complex, and to submit this study to the World Heritage Centre, for review by IUCN, as soon as it is available;
  11. Also welcomes the establishment of a joint Mongolian-Russian working group on the planned hydro-technical facilities in the Selenga River basin, also reiterates its request to the States Parties of the Mongolia and Russian Federation to implement the recommendations of the 2015 mission as well as the requests in Decisions 39 COM 7B.22, 40 COM 7B.97 and 41 COM 7B.6, and to jointly develop a transboundary SEA for any existing and planned hydropower and water management projects ensuring that its results guide the elaboration of EIAs of any such projects, including the planned Shuren hydropower and Orkhon River projects, and requests moreover the States Parties of the Russian Federation and Mongolia to also include an assessment of alternative solutions in the SEA;
  12. Finally requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2019, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and the implementation of the above, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 44th session in 2020.