The State Party submitted a report on 7 March 2007, which responded to some of the recommendations of the Committee’s Decisions made at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006).
a) Baikal Law and the Central Ecological Zone
The State Party report provided information on the laws protecting the property, which include protection from pollution and restrictions on changing the physical characteristics of the lake, such as water level. In 2006, the State Party issued several decrees:
(i) The Decree of 27 November 2006 № 1641-р approved the boundary of the Baikal Natural Area and its ecological zones. As requested by the Committee at its 30th session (Vilnius, 2006) and previous sessions, the boundary of the central ecological zone now coincides with the boundary of the World Heritage property.
(ii) Alteration of Decree of 1 May 1999 № 94-ФЗ “On protection of Lake Baikal”, which states that the boundary of the water protection zone should minimise negative influences over Lake Baikal. The exact coordinates are in process of approval by the Federal Government.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN have received additional information in early April 2007, noting that on 1 January 2007, new amendments to the Federal Law “On Environmental Impact Assessment” came into force. Under these amendments investments considered of priority interest for technical and economic reasons, as well as projects of construction and re-construction of industrial and other facilities would not require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). It is unclear how this new regulation will operate in the context of the Baikal Law and it could potentially be used to propose and develop projects of negative influence on the property.
In addition, it has been reported that the protection regime of the Central Ecological Zone based on Resolution of the Russian Federation Government No. 643 of 30 August 2001, which establishes the list of activities prohibited in the Central Ecological Zone, is now going through a series of amendments that could lead to reducing the protection regime of this zone. Whilst the proposed amendments are considered necessary to allow for a number of traditional and sustainable socio-economic activities there is concern on using these amendments to promote projects which might have a negative impact on the property. There is also concern and lack of clarity on potential conflicts between the Federal Law “On Special Economic Zones in the Russian Federation” and the special Federal Law “On Protection of Lake Baikal”, which might lead to reducing the protective status of Lake Baikal.
b) Baikal Commission
The State Party also issued the Decree 29 August 2006 № 1205-р on the establishment of the Intergovernmental Committee, as a coordinating body for providing concerted action in the field of Lake Baikal protection. The constitution of the Intergovernmental Committee for the protection of Lake Baikal is in progress, but no information is provided on when this process will be completed.
c) Improvement of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM)
The State Party reports that a closed water cycle for the turbo-blowers of the treatment facilities has been completed and that the design and plans for the transferral of the compressor station to a closed loop water cycle were finalised and are being implemented. The State Party provided a work plan and timeline for the completion of the mill’s improvement works, with a trial of the closed water cycle planned for July 2007. Work on the the Baikalsk city sewage treatment facility is also ongoing.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the decision to establish the boundaries of the central ecological zone coinciding with the boundaries of the World Heritage property, as well as the establishment of a clear timeline to convert the BPPM to a closed water cycle, but note that the State Party has not yet provided a copy of the management plan or any information on its adoption, a copy of the tourism strategy and associated funding mechanisms, or information on the monitoring system as recommended by the 2005 monitoring mission.
The other recommendations from the 2005 monitoring mission for which a response was requested but so far have not been provided by the State Party include:
(i) review the activities prohibited within the Central Ecological Zone to allow for development of ecologically sound and sustainable tourism;
(ii) inform UNESCO about the Terms of Reference, its members and its functioning mechanisms for the new Baikal Commission;
(iii) cooperate with the State Party of Mongolia, to include other chemical elements in the 1995 agreement on the water quality of the Selenga river;
(iv) diminish and control other sources of pollution affecting the property, in particular pollution associated to the Chitwa region; pollution in the areas of the lake used by mass recreation and tourism; and to take appropriate measures to diminish atmospheric pollution and monitor its effects on the property;
(v) guarantee funding for the on-going modernization of sewage clearing systems in the Baikal watershed and for the planned construction of 6 sewage collecting systems to be used by boats navigating the lake;
(vi) contingency plans, supported by adequate resources for their implementation, in case of an accident on the Trans-Siberian Railway and BAM railway that might lead to pollution of the lake;
(vii) enhance patrolling activities to reduce the level of illegal hunting of Baikal Seals, ensure a rigorous application of the existing regulations on seal hunting, enhance the licensing system for commercial hunters, and put in place a systematic inspection on compliance with hunting regulations; and
(viii) halt illegal constructions on the shores of the lake.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN acknowledge the importance of the recent Federal Decrees to support the protection of the property, and request further information on how these will be implemented through a Management Plan and Tourism Plan.
According to the Federal Law of the Russian Federation “On the protection of Lake Baikal”, Ref. No. 94-FZ of 1 May 1999, Art. 20, an annual unified government environment monitoring of the “Unique Ecosystem of Lake Baikal” is required. Referring to the 12th annual report for the year 2005, IUCN notes that the report contains extensive scientific data on the hydrological state of Lake Baikal. The chemical analyses refer to the North Baikal adjacent to the Baikal-Amur-Rail-Track, some central parts of the lake, in the vicinity of the wastewater discharge pipe of the BPPM, and on a 1339 km transect, covering about 3.8 % of the lake’s surface. However, in contrast to former years, only samples during the period of ice cover and only down to a water depth of 290 m were collected, due to the breakdown of the monitoring vessel and missing equipment. IUCN is concerned about this because the 2004 report states that in some zones around the BPPM outlet the main direction of distribution of polluting substances is towards deeper parts of the underwater slopes of the lake. This requires further clarification.
For the area adjacent to the BPPM the report notes similar values for most of the parameters as in previous years. However, the suspended substances content increased from 2003 to 2005, and exceeds the maximum permissible concentration (PDK) as given by law - 4 % of the samples exceeded the PDK for total mineral substances. In addition, volatile phenols and non-sulphate sulphur contents increased, the latter exceeding the PDK by up to 5.9 times. Mercury content at maximum concentrations was twice PDK. The report concludes that the zone of non-sulphate sulphur pollution reached 32 km2 (2003: 2.5 km2, 2004: about 15.7 km2).
While the parameters in the pelagic zone of the western shores remained at 2004 levels, higher values of permanganate oxidation and increased COD (Coloration degree) values were registered at parts of the eastern coastline. There is also an increase in concentrations related to background concentrations published in 2001 at the Selenga River delta and in the vicinity of some settlements.
Recent scientific publications repeatedly highlight an increase of organochlorines, among them dioxins and furans, in the Lake Baikal food chain. One study proves high values of PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in human milk. In Onguron, a small village on the western shore of the lake where diets include a high percentage of fish, levels of PCBs in human milk were higher than those registered in 18 regions of the world except Serpukhov (near Moscow). There, higher levels were noted in human milk in women formerly working in a transformer plant where Sovol was used in production.
The 2005 mission noted that the State Party has started a survey of all illegal private properties, and that already some legal procedures had begun to control this problem. However, IUCN has received reports that websites continue to offer the sale of property on the shore of Lake Baikal and that there are ongoing discussions for a “Special Economic Zone,” with a first stage reported to have been approved by the Federal Government. There is a need for a clear policy on addressing the ownership of land and development along the shore of the lake.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN request the State Party to address the lack of tourism regulation, particularly relating to campsites where the absence of infrastructure leads to littering and increase in waste management problems.