Decision : CONF 201 XII.23-29
Lake Baikal (Russian Federation)
XII.23 Following the report of the joint UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission to the site in 2001, presented to the 25th extraordinary session of the Bureau, and at the request of the 25th session of the Committee, the Permanent Delegation of the Russian Federation transmitted a report on the situation of Lake Baikal dated 1 February 2002.
XII.24 IUCN noted that progress has been achieved in the implementation of a number of measures towards the conservation of Lake Baikal. This was acknowledged in the UNESCO/IUCN report presented to the World Heritage Committee and the efforts of the State Party are recognized in trying to solve the complex conservation issues facing this site.
XII.25 In relation to the report submitted by the State Party the Bureau noted a number of concerns:
- Baikal Commission: The Bureau welcomed the news, conveyed in the State Party report, of the decision of the Russian Federal Ministry of Natural Resources to establish a Russian Federal Commission for Lake Baikal. However, no information was provided on:
- the time frame to implement this decision;
- when approval could be forthcoming from the Government of the Russian Federation;
- by what process the Commission would be formed;
- the mandate of the Commission;
- who would comprise the Commission and what would be their competencies, and
- when the Commission is expected to be fully operational.
XII.26 IUCN noted that the State Party decision to also create an inter-regional department of the Ministry in the Baikal Region to co-ordinate activities related to nature management and environmental protection in Lake Baikal and adjoining areas, may have the potential to duplicate the role of the Baikal Commission and create confusion.
2. Federal Law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”: This was a key issue raised in the UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission report. IUCN believed that the further specification and follow up of the Law is key to the successful resolution of other problems affecting the site. The State Party report noted that authorities are preparing their suggestions for the delineation of the zones, however that no time frame for final application is given. Though the State Party report noted adoption of several resolutions and legal acts, a clear and logical definition of the borders of the environmental zones is essential.
3. Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill: This issue has been brought to the attention of the Committee a number of times and the information received from the State Party confirms its complexity and the need for the Convention to assist the State Party in obtaining additional financial and technical support to solve this problem. The State Party reported that the Expert Commission for the State Environmental Impact Assessment recommended, in mid 2001, that the first stage of the “Complex Program for the Conversion of the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill and Development of the town of Baikalsk” be launched, so as to be completed by 2005. It remains unclear who will be responsible for implementation of each component of the first stage, and what is the time-table in the short term (1-2 years).
4. Prospects of gas production in the Selenga Delta: The report from the State Party confirmed that there are some geophysical indications of gas deposits in the Delta. IUCN welcomed the information provided by the State Party that the planned drilling of two parametrical wells in the site, to confirm the possibility of gas deposits, is presently subject to a State EIA. IUCN considered that exploration and exploitation of mineral, oil and gas resources is not acceptable within a World Heritage site. IUCN remained concerned that, if the existence of gas deposits is confirmed, exploitation of gas in this area will take place, with associated environmental impacts on the World Heritage site, as outlined in the UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission. IUCN noted that, while the existence of gas deposits in the Selenga Delta is yet to be confirmed, the State Party report does not provide any re-assurance that this resource will not be exploited in the event that its existence and economic viability is confirmed by research.
5. Level of pollution to Lake Baikal through the Selenga River: The report from UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission to this site noted that “the pollution load of the Selenga River is apparently still considerable”. While IUCN acknowledged, based on the State Party report, that this load has been steadily reduced (by 27% between 1997 and 2000), the discharge of wastewater to the river in 2000 was still over 60 million cubic metres per annum and this provides a significant impact on the site and remains a major concern. This level of pollution is indeed of concern. IUCN also welcomed the information on the different measures planned to further reduce this level of pollution, however it is not clear from the State Party report what progress had been made in the implementation of these measures, and if the funding received for them is sufficient for full implementation.
6. Single Management Plan for the site: The information received from the State Party noted proposals to develop such a plan under the framework of Article 22 of the Federal Law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”. However, information is required on the resources available to prepare such a plan, and the time frame for this exercise to be completed. IUCN emphasised that the management plan must outline concrete strategies and actions for dealing with threats, in the long, medium and short term.
7. Decline of the Baikal Seal population: The UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission noted a continuous decline in the Baikal seal population. The information provided by the State Party is contradictory to this and to other assessments made available to the team that undertook the UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission in 2001. There is no clear agreement, due to a lack of regular monitoring assessments, on the factors that affect the seal population. IUCN acknowledged that the hunting permits have remained unchanged for the last 8 years (at a level of 3-4 thousands seals per year). However, the UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission noted that the skills of the legal hunters are poor, often causing collateral deaths due to wounding of animals. In the event of a true decline of the seal population due to factors other than hunting, the current level of the legal quota may be inappropriate and create unfavourable pressure on the species. IUCN reiterated the recommendation from the UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission on the need for improved and co-ordinated monitoring of the seal population as well as better training and surveillance of the hunters.
8. Planned oil and gas pipeline to China: IUCN welcomed the commitment from the State Party to require that the EIA prepared by the pipeline contractor should effectively address the protection of the integrity of the site. However, IUCN believed that this issue requires careful attention in the event that important gas reservoirs are found in the Selenga Delta and in the event that the State Party decides to exploit such reservoirs.
9. Pollution from the town of Severobaikalsk: The report of the State Party reinforces the results of the UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission, which noted that the insufficient treatment of sewage remains an issue of serious concern to the integrity of the site.
10. Forest Cutting: The State Party report noted that: wood-logging volumes in the catchment area of Lake Baikal are much lower that they were in the 80’s; no clear-cutting operations are taking place in the coastal water-protection zone of Lake Baikal in the Irkutsk Region and the Republic of Buryatia; and all timber is logged under improved environmental felling operations. The UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission also noted official reports that there had been a significant decrease in logging in the Buryat Forest, however the Monitoring Mission report also mentioned that satellite imaging shows that considerable clear-cuttings went on in this area after the inscription of Lake Baikal in 1996. This issue remains unclear.
11. Situation in Pribaikalsky National Park: IUCN welcomed the information provided by the State Party on the increasing level of protection of this national park that has resulted in a decreasing number of violations related to illegal fishing and hunting.
XII.27 IUCN noted that a few issues mentioned in the UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission report were not mentioned in the State Party report: atmospheric pollution; fishing; state of reserves and artificial changes of the water table. With respect to the atmospheric pollution, the UNESCO/IUCN Monitoring Mission report noted the need for improved interpretation of data in order to link monitoring results with sources of pollution. IUCN noted that the conservation and development issues at Lake Baikal are complex and that the positive efforts of the State Party in dealing with these issues are to be commended. IUCN noted there remain some areas of disagreement between the UNESCO/IUCN report and the State Party report.
XII.28 IUCN considered that there remain serious concerns in relation to the state of conservation of this site, particularly in relation to pollution impacts, including from the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill; progress with the Federal Law: “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”; establishment of the Baikal Commission, and uncertainties about gas exploration and exploitation in the Selenga Delta. IUCN thus reiterated the recommendation of the UNESCO/IUCN report to inscribe this site on the List of World Heritage in Danger. IUCN restated that inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger would be a positive measure to attract international support to enhance the capacity of the State Party to deal with the complex issues related to the conservation of this site. IUCN also reiterated the need to consider the five points proposed to the 25th session of the World Heritage Committee for assessing future progress towards the conservation of this site.
XII.29 The Bureau adopted the following recommendation for action by the 26th session of the Committee:
“The Committee notes that there remain serious concerns in relation to the state of conservation of this site, particularly in relation to pollution impacts, including from the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, the lack of progress with the Federal Law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”, the establishment of the Baikal Commission, and uncertainties about gas exploration and exploitation in the Selenga Delta. Having considered the report provided by the State Party and the comments by IUCN, the Committee decides to include Lake Baikal on the List of World Heritage in Danger.
The Bureau furthermore requested the State Party to provide the following:
- Precise time-schedules for implementation of the first stage of the BPPM Programme in the next 1-2 years;
- Concerning the Baikal Law: a map of the zones, indicating clear and logical borders;
- For the Baikal Commission: documentation detailing the establishment of the co-ordination body, including means of establishment, mandate, composition, date of commencement of duties, competence;
- Concerning the Baikal Seals: information on the training of legal hunters and establishment of a sound monitoring regime; and
- Finally for the Gas Exploration in the Selenga Delta, clear statement of intentions if and when gas is found through “scientific research".
Furthermore, the Committee recommends that regular meetings between the State Party, the UNESCO Moscow Office and IUCN-CIS be encouraged to improve co-operation and communication".