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Lake Baikal

Russian Federation
Factors affecting the property in 2011*
  • Illegal activities
  • Land conversion
  • Legal framework
  • Major visitor accommodation and associated infrastructure
  • Management systems/ management plan
  • Surface water pollution
Factors* affecting the property identified in previous reports

a) Lack of adequate management regime;

b) Uncertain legal protection;

c) Pollution;

d) Illegal timber harvesting;

e) Gas and oil pipeline project across the World Heritage property (issue solved);

f) Illegal construction on the Lake shore;

g) Illegal sale of land;

h) Tourism development. 

International Assistance: requests for the property until 2011
Requests approved: 2 (from 1990-2000)
Total amount approved : 33,200 USD
Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2011

On 2 March 2011, the State Party submitted a report on the state of conservation protected areas included in the property, the status of the Baikal seal population and an update on the status of the re-opening of the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill (BPPM).

a) Re-opening of the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill (BPPM) and pollution

At its 34th session the World Heritage Committee noted with serious concern the recent re-opening of the BPPM without a close-loop water system being put in place, as well as a number of other issues. The World Heritage Committee took note of the information provided by the State Party that it had the intention to address the issue of waste water treatment and develop a long term solution within a 30-month timeframe. The World Heritage Committee did not follow the advice of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN to request the State Party to rescind Decree No. 1 “On the introduction of amendments to the list of activities prohibited in the Central Ecological Zone of the Baikal Natural Area”, which permits the disposal of wastewaters from paper mills into Lake Baikal.  The World Heritage Committee also called upon the Director of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre to convene a meeting with the Russian authorities and relevant stakeholders, in cooperation with IUCN, to identify how the impacts of this reopening can be addressed. At the time of preparation of this report the meeting has not taken place, and is scheduled for the period after the 35th session of the World Heritage Committee. The different issues reported below will be discussed during the mission.

The State Party reports that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology Order No 63 of March 5, 2010 had approved the norms for discharges of pollution from BPPM directed towards maximum preservation of the ecosystem of Lake Baikal in the existing conditions. On this basis a permit for release and emission of pollutants to atmosphere has been granted. No information is provided in the report on whether the emissions are monitored nor whether the BPPM is operating within the established norms. IUCN has received information that multiple violations of the norms set for BPPM were registered in 2010. Investigations by the Office of Environmental Prosecutor of the Irkutsk region are reported to have resulted in 12 cases of administrative prosecution against the BPPM. IUCN has also received information that the State Party might consider suspending Order No.63 of 5 March 2010 and thereby further weaken the norms, as it may not be feasible to achieve the norms with the existing infrastructure at BPPM and because of fears that the strict application of the Order would lead to high fines which could affect the economic situation of the plant. 

The State Party reports that the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Plant is developing the draft development strategy of “Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Plant”, under which it is proposed to transit to the closed system of water use for achieving zero discharge. This strategy would be tied with modernization of the single-industry town of Baikalsk between 2010-2014. The report does not confirm that the closed water cycle will be achieved within the announced 30-month period.

The State Party also reports on the development of a draft of the Federal target program “Preservation of Lake Baikal and social and economic development of Baikalsk natural territory”, which stipulates an allotment of 1 billion Roubles in 2011 for nature preservation measures at Lake Baikal, including for the treatment of accumulated toxic lignin waste and seepage water from the storage areas, as well as restoration of the land areas used for the storage of the waste. Amongst the points raised in the State Party report, it notes that the most significant factor affecting Baikal Biosphere reserve and Kabansky nature reserve is the negative effect of industrial atmospheric emissions from BPPM and industry in Angarsk-Irkutsk. On 10 January 2011, the World Heritage Centre wrote to the State Party having received information that the Director of the BPPM had declared that the process to transition to a closed loop system might take up to five years, contrary to the declaration made by the State Party at the 34th session. At the time of finalisation of the present report no response has been received to this letter.

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note the potential negative impacts of the reopening of the BPPM on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of Lake Baikal as a result of the discharge of toxic chemicals into the Lake ecosystem, as explained in earlier State of conservation reports. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN reiterate their position that reopening of BPPM without the installation of a closed water cycle to prevent discharge of polluting chemicals into the lake is not compatible with the conservation of the OUV of Lake Baikal and that, as a minimum, the environmental norms set for discharges should be retained and upheld during the 30-month period announced by the State Party for the mill to transition to a closed loop system. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN note that further weakening of the norms for the discharge of chemicals into the lake or the continued operation of BPPM without a closed water cycle beyond the 30-month period announced by the State Party would threaten the OUV of the property and provide a clear basis for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. 

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN welcome the stated commitments to establish alternative livelihoods within Baikalsk, but note the information provided on alternative livelihoods in the State Party report is very brief and not specific. They also note that the reopening of the Mill is costly and also may be detracting from an alternative investment strategy to create more sustainable, long-term employment and economic development based on green growth. 

The State Party does not report on measures regarding pollution of the River Selenga, but notes that there is a significant reduction in fish stocks at the nature reserve “Kabansky” and within the delta of the River Selenga as a whole.

b) Other conservation issues

The State Party report provides brief information on the population of the Baikal Seal, which it assesses at 95,000 individuals. Calving rates are reported to be high at 20,000 to 30,000 a year, and the previously reported ageing trend of the population is reported to be reversed. The State Party report also contains useful information on a range of conservation issues in the protected areas which are part of the property, including in relation to fires, management of habitats and species conservation. The State Party notes that it is unable to provide information requested by the World Heritage Committee on a marina development in Buryatia that was reported at the 34th session, as it does not know to which site this refers.

IUCN has recently received information concerning a potential threat within the Central Ecological Zone of the Baikal Nature Area, from the planned exploration of the Kholodninskoye poly-metal deposit. In late 2010, a draft chart of area planning for the Central Ecological Zone of the Baikal Natural Area was published on the official web site of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology where the polygon of the Kholodninskoye deposit is designated as “territory of exploration of natural resources deposits in enclosed mines (zinc, lead, etc.). Whilst this information awaits discussion with the State Party, the World Heritage Centre and IUCN wish to highlight that mining exploration activities are incompatible with the World Heritage status. 

Analysis and Conclusion by World Heritage Centre and the Advisory Bodies in 2011

The World Heritage Centre and IUCN wish to draw the World Heritage Committee’s attention on the reopening of BPPM, and on the fact that this development poses a critical threat to the OUV of the property, as well as a potential detraction from an investment strategy to create alternative and sustainable livelihoods in the Baikalsk region. They remain of the view that BPPM should not have been brought into operation ahead of the establishment of a feasible and cost-effective business plan based on a closed-loop system.

They recommend that the World Heritage Committee indicate that further weakening of the norms for the discharge of chemicals into the lake or the continued operation of BPPM without a closed water cycle beyond the 30-month period would threaten the OUV of the property and provide a clear basis for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger. 

They also underline the importance of continued action on the other factors affecting the property, as noted in the State Party report, and as above to also ensure that there is no approval of mining activities within the property.

Decisions adopted by the Committee in 2011
35 COM 7B.23
Lake Baikal (Russian Federation) (N 754)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.22, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Regrets that it was not possible to organize the meeting with the Russian authorities and other stakeholders to identify how impacts of the re-opening of the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill (BPPM) on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property can be addressed, and requests that this be organized as soon as possible;

4. Reiterates its serious concern regarding the re-opening of the BPPM without a close-loop water system, as well as the continued pollution from the Selenga river, and its potentially critical impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of Lake Baikal, and therefore also requests the State Party to review its decision to reopen BPPM;

5. Considers that further weakening of the norms for the discharge of chemicals into the lake or the continued operation of BPPM without a closed water cycle beyond the 30-month period, which was announced by the State Party at the 34th session (expiring in December 2012), would further threaten the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and provide a clear basis for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

6. Urges the State Party to ensure a careful monitoring and enforcement of the norms established by the State Party in Order No.63 of 5 March 2010 throughout this short-term period of operation;

7. Encourages the State Party to extend its efforts to develop and implement a long-term alternative livelihoods strategy for the town of Baikalsk, and to consider the investment of limited finances in such efforts as an alternative investment strategy to maintaining the potentially uneconomic operation of BPPM;

8. Further requests the State Party to confirm that no mining or mineral exploration will be permitted within the property as inscribed on the World Heritage List, in line with the World Heritage Committee's clear position that mining is incompatible with World Heritage status, and the international policy statement of the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) of not undertaking these activities in World Heritage properties;

9. Reiterates its request to the State Party to clarify the extent of the reportedly planned marina within the territory of the Republic of Buriatia and submit its Environmental Impact Assessment to the World Heritage Centre prior to granting permission for the development, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and requests furthermore the State Party to verify information regarding the location of this development with the World Heritage Centre;

10. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre a further report, by 1 February 2012, on the state of conservation of the property, and in particular progress made in preventing the discharge of untreated wastewater into Lake Baikal, addressing continuing high levels of pollution in the Selenga River, developing a comprehensive tourism and livelihood strategy for the property, and the confirmation that there are no planned mining activities within the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.

Draft Decision: 35 COM 7B.23

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Document WHC-11/35.COM/7B.Add,

2. Recalling Decision 34 COM 7B.22, adopted at its 34th session (Brasilia, 2010),

3. Regrets that it was not possible to organize the meeting with the Russian authorities and other stakeholders to identify how impacts of the re-opening of the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill (BPPM) on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property can be addressed, and requests that this be organized as soon as possible;

4. Reiterates its serious concern regarding the re-opening of the BPPM without a close-loop water system, as well as the continued pollution from the Selenga river, and its potentially critical impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of Lake Baikal, and therefore also requests the State Party to review its decision to reopen BPPM;

5. Considers that further weakening of the norms for the discharge of chemicals into the lake or the continued operation of BPPM without a closed water cycle beyond the 30-month period, which was announced by the State Party at the 34th session (expiring in December 2012), would further threaten the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and provide a clear basis for inscription of the property on the List of World Heritage in Danger;

6. Urges the State Party to ensure a careful monitoring and enforcement of the norms established by the State Party in Order No.63 of 5 March 2010 throughout this short-term period of operation;

7. Encourages the State Party to extend its efforts to develop and implement a long-term alternative livelihoods strategy for the town of Baikalsk, and to consider the investment of limited finances in such efforts as an alternative investment strategy to maintaining the potentially uneconomic operation of BPPM;

8. Further requests the State Party to confirm that no mining or mineral exploration will be permitted within the property as inscribed on the World Heritage List, in line with the World Heritage Committee’s clear position that mining is incompatible with World Heritage status, and the international policy statement of the International Council of Mining and Metals (ICMM) of not undertaking these activities in World Heritage properties;

9. Reiterates its request to the State Party to clarify the extent of the reportedly planned marina within the territory of the Republic of Buriatia and submit its Environmental Impact Assessment to the World Heritage Centre prior to granting permission for the development, in accordance with Paragraph 172 of the Operational Guidelines, and requests furthermore the State Party to verify information regarding the location of this development with the World Heritage Centre;

10. Requests moreover the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre a further report, by 1 February 2012, on the state of conservation of the property, and in particular progress made in preventing the discharge of untreated wastewater into Lake Baikal, addressing continuing high levels of pollution in the Selenga River, developing a comprehensive tourism and livelihood strategy for the property, and the confirmation that there are no planned mining activities within the property, for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 36th session in 2012.

Report year: 2011
Russian Federation
Date of Inscription: 1996
Category: Natural
Criteria: (vii)(viii)(ix)(x)
Documents examined by the Committee
arrow_circle_right 35COM (2011)
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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