At its 32nd session (Quebec City, 2008), the World Heritage Committee requested a report on progress of the review of legal provisions relevant to the protection of the property, legal and administrative frameworks to regulate tourism and town-planning, and the remaining recommendations of the 2005 mission. Issues of particular concern included the status of funding for management and monitoring of the property, and exemptions and amendments made to laws and regulations on activities, which could be incompatible with the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property. On 30 January 2009, a report on the state of conservation of the property was received from the State Party.
The State Party reports that the federal law ‘On the protection of Baikal Lake’ is the most important legal document in regulating the economic activity and management on the Baikal natural territory and the property. This report does not indicate if the State Party has harmonized laws potentially inconsistent with the protection of the property. The State Party reports that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology has prepared a draft resolution entitled ‘On amendment of the list of categories of activities prohibited in central ecological zone of the Baikal natural territory’. Under this draft amendment, the mining of metal ores, including the Kholodninskoye complex, is prohibited. However, no information is reported on the prohibition of other activities incompatible with the protection of the property.
The report also describes progress made to ensure adequate funding for the management and monitoring of the property, noting that in 2008, 482.4 million roubles (c. USD 14 million) were allocated from federal and republican budgets for nature conservation measures within the “Program of Buryat Republic social and economic development for 2008-2010 and for the period until 2017”.
The State Party reports that the laws of Buryat Republic 210-1 ‘On tourism’ and the resolution dated 23.10.2006, and No. 340 ‘On approval of the republican purpose-oriented program “Tourism development in Buryat Republic during 2007-2010”’ were amended in 2008. In addition, the resolution No. 474 ‘On registration of travel entities in the territory of Buryat Republic’ was enacted. The report does not specify how these laws will aid the protection of the property. The report also notes that tourism was declared one of the strategic directions of social and economic development of the republic by law No. 2595-II of 09.11.2007 “On social and economic development program of the republic during 2008-2010 and for the period till 2017 year”. Furthermore, the ‘Travel Agency’, an executive agency of governmental authorities, responsible for planning tourism development on the territory of the Burayt republic, was created under a governmental resolution dated 22.10.2007 No. 329. There is no information on the establishment of a comprehensive strategy or plan for sustainable tourism or on what activities have been implemented to ensure sustainable tourism and the protection of the property.
The report also mentions that the draft of land-use planning for the Buryat Republic would be completed by December 2008. Drafts of land-use planning layout for the Kaban, Pribaikal, Severobaikalsk districts, located within the limits of the World Heritage property, would be completed in 2008, while that of Barguzin district is expected for March 2009. In addition, it is proposed that master plans for settlements located within those districts will be developed in 2009. No information is given on how such measures will contribute to halting or removing illegal constructions on the shores of the lake, identified as one of the main threats to the values and integrity of the property.
The State Party further notes that there are problems of locally generated pollution in the Baikal inshore area. High concentrations of sewage-related bacteria are reported near the settlements and ports during summer, particularly in the waste discharge area of the Baikal pulp and paper mill. The report mentions that a closed system of water consumption within the pulp and paper mill was put into operation in September 2008, which is expected to completely stop the industrial waste discharge into the lake. Other reports mention the closure of the mill. The State Party is requested to confirm the status of the Baikal pulp and paper and that all discharge has been halted.
Also regarding pollution, the State Party report notes that 72 unauthorized dumps were removed from the lake shores in 2008. The report does not include any information on the pollution load in the Selenga River. An article published in the Journal of Geographical Sciences in August 2008 on the ‘Seasonal and spatial distribution of heavy metals in the Selenga River Delta’ indicates that the presence of heavy metals in the water of this river and its delta show seasonal variations but that lead, zinc, copper, iron and manganese concentrations exceed the Maximum Allowed Concentrations for waters suitable for fisheries.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN also received a letter, dated 25 November 2008, from local NGOs on the potential threats to the integrity of Lake Baikal posed by plans to lower the level of Lake Baikal thus increasing the permitted fluctuations in lake level by 0.86m to more than 2m far greater than the natural range in fluctuations. This proposal was put forward by the Russian Ministry of Energy. IUCN notes that no Environmental Impact Assessment has been carried out to assess the potential impacts of such water level fluctuations to the Outstanding Universal Value and integrity of the property.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that there has been progress made in implementing the World Heritage Committee’s decisions but regret that some of the recommendations made by the 2005 monitoring mission have yet to be addressed, or cannot be assessed from the information provided by the State Party’s report. In particular, the State Party did not provide any information on progress in adopting the management plan (Complex Scheme for the Protection and Use of Natural Resources in Baikal Natural Territory). Similarly, despite some steps taken towards addressing tourism pressures, there is no clear information on the development of a comprehensive tourism strategy for the property. There is also no reference to efforts made to enhance patrolling activities to reduce the level of illegal hunting including of Baikal Seals, nor on measures taken to halt illegal constructions on the shores of the Lake.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN support the efforts made by the State Party towards reducing pollution in Lake Baikal, in allocating funds for the management of the property and starting to develop regulations for tourism and town-planning. However, the integrity of the property continues to be affected by pollution, and inconsistencies in legal regulations for the protection of the property have not been fully addressed.