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Lake Baikal

Russian Federation
Factors affecting the property in 2001*
  • Financial resources
  • Forestry /wood production
  • Housing
  • Illegal activities
  • Impacts of tourism / visitor / recreation
  • Legal framework
  • Major linear utilities
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Oil and gas
  • Surface water pollution
  • Other Threats:

    Continuing decline of the Baikal Seal population

Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports
  • Pollution of the Lake from the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill
  • Questions about the legal status of some parts along the border of the site (issue resolved)
  • Unregulated hunting and fishing
  • Extensive building development
  • Lack of financial resources
International Assistance: requests for the property until 2001
Requests approved: 2 (from 1990-2000)
Total amount approved : 33,200 USD
Missions to the property until 2001**

July 1997: World Hertiage Centre mission; August-September 2001: joint UNESCO / IUCN monitoring mission

Information presented to the Bureau of the World Heritage Committee in 2001

Previous deliberations:
Twenty-third ordinary session of the Bureau – paragraph IV.38
Twenty-third session of the Committee – paragraph X.28 and Annex VIII
Twenty-fourth ordinary session of the Bureau – paragraph IV.37
Twenty-fourth session of the Committee – paragraph VIII.27 / Annex X page 116.

Main issues: pollution of the lake, integrity and  management issues;

New information:  Via letter of 17 April 2001 the States Party informed the Centre that the Ministry of Natural Resources proposes that the IUCN-UNESCO mission to review the state of conservation be carried out in September 2001. IUCN notes that the joint UNESCO / IUCN monitoring mission has been invited and that the 6th Living Lakes Conference on Water Quality and Traditions in Lake Areas will take place at Ulan-Ude, Lake Baikal at the end of July, 2001. The focus of the conference is on appropriate measures and projects to protect the water quality of Lake Baikal and other case studies of Living Lakes Partners, as well as the influence of traditional ways of living on the lake ecosystem.

Action Required

Note: this report was presented to the Bureau for noting only.

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2001

The State Party invited a UNESCO mission to this site following the recommendation from the twenty-fourth session of the Committee.  The mission took place from 25 August to 3 September 2001. A Representative of IUCN and the Director of UNESCO-Moscow Office, representing the World Heritage Centre, conducted the mission. The full report of this mission is contained in information document WHC-2001/CONF.207/INF.8.  IUCN would like to acknowledge the excellent support received for this mission from the regional authorities and local stakeholders.  However, IUCN notes that no representative from the Federal Government participated in the mission during the field visit, when substantive discussion on the state of conservation of this site took place.  The Centre also received an unofficial translation of a brief document submitted by the Vice Head of the Section of Especially Protected Natural Territories of the Russian Federation.  This document provided details of pollution levels of Lake Baikal and stated that the territorial bodies of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Russian Federation in Irkutsk Oblast and Buratia have been informed about the mission and are ready to co-operate.

 

IUCN welcomes some positive developments in relation to the increased awareness of regional authorities on the relevance of the status of Lake Baikal as a World Heritage natural site, as well as the increased support given to enhance the management of the protected areas within this site through GEF Projects. However there are a series of recurrent problems and new potential threats that IUCN believes are seriously threatening the integrity of this site. Key recurrent problems have been reported to previous Committee meetings and include:

·       The Federal Baikal Law, approved in March 1999, is still lacking the necessary detailed regulations and by-laws that will make it fully operational.  Five important decrees are foreseen to complement this important law but only two of them, on Regulation of the Water Level at Lake Baikal and on Activities Banned in the Central Ecological Zone have been approved.  However, even this limited legal framework has not been fully enforced.  The decree to ban activities in the Central Ecological Zone is constrained by the fact that the zoning for this site has not been defined. There are also reports on frequent violations of the Federal Law on the Protection of the Environment and of the Federal Law on Environmental Impact Assessments in relation to logging activities, illegal hunting, over fishing and the development of new buildings and infrastructure in the Baikal World Heritage site.

·       There is still no overall management plan for this site, as requested by the Committee at the time of inscription. This is essential in view of the need for effective zoning of this site and the increasing development pressures that this site is facing.

·       In 2000 the Baikal Commission, an intergovernmental body comprising federal and regional authorities as well as scientific institutions, was abolished causing serious gaps in the co-ordination and implementation of conservation activities at Lake Baikal.  The absence of this body also makes it more difficult to evaluate the impact of proposed new development projects on the integrity of this site and to take the necessary measures to stop or modify those projects.

·       There is particular concern about the impact from the development of tourist centres in Pribaikalsky National Park that have been developed in ecologically important areas of this Park.  An increase in illegal poaching and logging have also been reported in this Park as well as in other areas within the World Heritage site.

·       Continuing decline of the Baikal Seal population (a census in 1994 estimated a total population of 104,000.  Two research groups estimated the total population in 2000 at 40,000 - 60,000 and 67,000 respectively).  This species is at the highest level of the food chain in Lake Baikal and its decline is an important indicator on the overall state of Baikal ecosystems.  Research suggests a complex combination of causes, including a high accumulation of poisonous substances such as PCBs, and other organochlorine products, loss of immunity to natural diseases, habitat deterioration and human predatory activities.  In relation to PCBs some studies point to the town of Usolye-Sibirskoye as the single largest possible source, being associated with the production of the soda that it is used at the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill. 

·       The Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill (BPPM) continues to be a serious threat to the integrity of this site, discharging around 50,000 tons of wastewater into Lake Baikal and 20,000 tons of total emissions into the atmosphere per year.  Polluted areas of the Lake of almost 100km² are recorded by scientific studies, and include impacts on phytoplankton composition in the southern part of the Lake. A number of options have been studied in relation to BPPM operations: from closure of the plant to a total re-profiling of the plant to move from pulp production to the production of paper and furniture. There is also a proposal to establish a closed-loop recycling system for BPPM, however some experts consider this option unfeasible. In addition there is concern that a re-profiling of the plant to use unbleached cellulose will create additional pressure on the forests of the Lake Baikal region, including forest area within the World Heritage site. The technical, social and economic considerations related to BPPM re-profiling are very complex and urgently require substantial international funding and technical support.

 

In addition to these recurrent problems there are new potential threats to the integrity of this site:

·       A project to develop a gas and oil pipeline to China was confirmed by the regional authorities during the IUCN/UNESCO mission.  There are a number of options under consideration for this project, including one that envisages the pipeline passing in the vicinity of the south-western watershed area of the World Heritage site (at the headwaters of the Rivers Sneznaya and Utulik).  This option may involve considerable risk to the integrity of this site and the people living around in case of accidents due to seismic activities in the area.  The Government of the Republic of Buryatia has approved the Declaration of Intent for this project in spite of the fact that for a number of Russian experts the options under consideration are violating the Federal Law on the Protection of the Environment.  In the case of federal approval of this project, its implementation could create unprecedented environmental risks to the integrity of this site.

·       The Government of the Republic of Buryatia has granted a license to Buryat Gas Company that allows for both exploration and exploitation of gas and oil in the Selenga Delta, within the World Heritage site, for a period of 25 years. At the initial phase of this project, in winter 1999/2000 six sampling drillings were done in the southern Selenga Delta (Istok-Golutai area) not far from the border of a RAMSAR site.  An EIA for the second part of this project, which implies deep drilling in the Selenga littoral, was presented to the regional authorities but it was denied. The General Procurator of Buryatia also has protested against the issued license for the first phase of exploratory drilling that was approved by the State Committee for Natural Resources of Buryatia.  This project is currently under consideration by the Federal Ministry of Natural Resources but no official response is available yet.  However, in the case of a positive decision the potential threats to the integrity of this World Heritage site are considerable, due to the direct and indirect impacts of oil and gas exploration and exploitation. This project is particularly important considering its potential link with the gas and oil pipeline to China.  As mentioned above, one of the design options for the pipeline passes close to the Selenga Delta, presumably to be linked to this area if exploitation of gas and oil is allowed.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2001
25 BUR V.281
State of conservation

V.281     The Bureau took note of information that the Secretariat had provided in the working document on the state of conservation of the following properties:

Noel Kempff Mercado National Park (Bolivia)

Morne Trois Pitons National Park (Dominica)

Huascaran National Park (Peru)

Lake Baikal (Russian Federation) 

Hatra (Iraq)

Hiroshima Peace Memorial (Genbaku Dome) (Japan)

Joya de Ceren Archaeological Site (El Salvador)

Cultural Landscape of Sintra (Portugal)

25 COM VIII.89-94
Lake Baikal (Russian Federation)

VIII.89 The Committee noted that the State Party had invited a UNESCO-IUCN mission to this site following the recommendation of the twenty-fourth session of the Committee. The mission took place from 25 August to 3 September 2001. IUCN and the Director of the UNESCOMoscow Office, representing the World Heritage Centre, conducted the mission. The Committee was informed that the full report of this mission was presented to the twentyfifth extraordinary session of the Bureau and that it noted in particular the series of recurrent problems and new potential threats that, according to IUCN, would seriously threaten the integrity of this site.

VIII.90 The Committee noted the Bureau's concern about a number of new potential threats to the integrity of this site including a project to develop a gas and oil pipeline to China, which was confirmed, and that the Government of the Republic of Buryatia had granted a license to Buryat Gas Company. The Committee was also informed that a number of Bureau members noted that no indication was received from the State Party concerning the inclusion of the site on the List of World Heritage in Danger and that a number of consultation meetings on this matter were held between the Delegation of the Russian Federation, IUCN, the Director of the UNESCO Moscow office and staff members of the Centre. In conclusion, the need was recognized to consult and comment on the results of the mission to Lake Baikal.

VIII.91 The Delegate of the Russian Federation informed the Committee that his Government would like to review the full report of the mission in detail and that the authorities would be prepared to present a reply by 1 February 2002. He thanked the members of the mission and in particular the Director of the UNESCO Moscow Office for his support and co-operation to find a solution.

VIII.92 The Committee noted that little substantial progress has been achieved towards enhancing the protection of Lake Baikal, and addressing issues repeatedly raised by the Committee, and that there are new emerging threats that pose unprecedented risks to the integrity of this site. The Committee furthermore noted that international support is needed to enhance the capacity of the State Party to deal with the complex issues related to the conservation of this site.

VIII.93 The Committee furthermore noted the following as key milestones in assessing future progress:

(1) Development and enforcement of all related regulations and by-laws required for the Federal Baikal Law to become fully operational. These regulations and by-laws should be developed through a participatory and transparent process involving local people and all key stakeholders dealing with the protection and management of this site.

(2) Development and implementation of an integrated management plan for the whole Baikal region, with emphasis on the protection of the World Heritage site. Priority should be given to develop an adequate ecological zoning of this site to enforce the Federal Baikal Law. This plan needs to include a comprehensive monitoring system on the state of Lake Baikal. Adequate human and financial resources are required to ensure its long-term implementation.

(3) Development and implementation of adequate institutional and co-ordination mechanisms for implementing the Federal Baikal Law, its regulations and by-laws. This could take the form of a renewed Baikal Commission or a similar institutional arrangement that would enhance co-ordination between federal and regional authorities while involving also NGOs, scientific institutions and other stakeholders.

(4) Development and implementation of a comprehensive programme to adequately address the pollution problems affecting this site, giving particular priority to the case of BPPM, but also including other sources of pollution that are affecting the integrity of this site.

(5) Detailed consideration of various scenarios for the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, including total phasing out of the Mill. This requires a long-term strategy and must be associated with the development of alternative livelihoods for local people as the BPPM is the main source of employment in the region.

VIII.94 Finally, the Committee requested that the State Party provides an urgent response by 1 February 2002 in relation to these issues, particularly on the development of a gas and oil pipeline to China, and the potential impacts of this project on the integrity of this site, as well as the proposed oil and gas exploration in the Selenga Delta. The Committee furthermore requested the World Heritage Centre to undertake all possible efforts to encourage the World Bank, GEF, UNF, and other relevant international donors to provide urgent support, in the form of soft loans, grants and projects, to enhance the State Party efforts to address the complex conservation and development issues facing Lake Baikal.

The Bureau may wish to adopt the following decision for transmission to the Committee:

“The Committee notes that little substantial progress has been achieved towards enhancing the protection of Lake Baikal, and addressing issues repeatedly raised by the Committee, and that there are new emerging threats that would pose unprecedented risks to the integrity of this site. The Committee therefore decides to inscribe Lake Baikal in the List of World Heritage in Danger. The Committee notes that this should be viewed as 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. 

The Committee furthermore notes the following as key milestones in assessing future progress:

(1)     Development and enforcement of all related regulations and by-laws required for the Federal Baikal Law to become fully operational.  These regulations and by-laws should be developed through a participatory and transparent process involving local people and all key stakeholders dealing with the protection and management of this site.

(2)     Development and implementation of an integrated management plan for the whole Baikal region, with emphasis on the protection of the World Heritage site.  Priority should be given to develop an adequate ecological zoning of this site to enforce the Federal Baikal Law.  This plan needs to include a comprehensive monitoring system on the state of Lake Baikal.  Adequate human and financial resources are required to ensure its long-term implementation.

(3)     Development and implementation of adequate institutional and co-ordination mechanisms for implementing the Federal Baikal Law, its regulations and by-laws. This could take the form of a renewed Baikal Commission or a similar institutional arrangement that would enhance co-ordination between federal and regional authorities while involving also NGOs, scientific institutions and other stakeholders. 

(4)     Development and implementation of a comprehensive programme to adequately address the pollution problems affecting this site, giving particular priority to the case of BPPM, but also including other sources of pollution that are affecting the integrity of this site.

(5)     Detailed consideration of various scenarios for the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, including total phasing out of the Mill.  This requires a long-term strategy and must be associated with the development of alternative livelihoods for local people as the BPPM is the main source of employment in the region.

In addition, the Committee requests that the State Party provides an urgent response by 1 February 2002 on the development of a gas and oil pipeline to China, and the potential impacts of this project on the integrity of this site, as well as the proposed oil and gas exploration in the Selenga Delta. The Committee furthermore requests the World Heritage Centre to undertake all possible efforts to encourage the World Bank, GEF, UNF, and other relevant international donors to provide urgent support, in the form of soft loans, grants and projects, to enhance the State Party efforts to address the complex conservation and development issues facing Lake Baikal.”

Report year: 2001
Russian Federation
Date of Inscription: 1996
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Exports

* : The threats indicated are listed in alphabetical order; their order does not constitute a classification according to the importance of their impact on the property.
Furthermore, they are presented irrespective of the type of threat faced by the property, i.e. with specific and proven imminent danger (“ascertained danger”) or with threats which could have deleterious effects on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value (“potential danger”).

** : All mission reports are not always available electronically.


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