Analytical Center suggests a comprehensive approach to tackling the problems faced by regions adjacent to Lake Baikal

6 september 2016

The Analytical Center for the Government of the Russian Federation and public organisation “Delovaya Rossiya” together and with support from the Central Office of the Government of the Russian Federation have mapped out a programme titled “Baikal, a great lake in a great country”. The programme objective is to develop a single system management system for the Lake Baikal facilitating the environmentally-oriented economic development of the three regions adjacent to the Lake Baikal – Buryatia, the Irkutsk region and theTransbaikal.

The project envisages the reorganisation of the environmental management system, development of the tourism potential – which includes building a single Baikal tourism cluster, integrated development of the lake’s coastal infrastructure, as well as setting up a Baikal international centre for environmental research and business communications. The implementation of the program is scheduled for 2017-2025 and provides for the consolidation of all state programs involving the lake, and for inclusion of the region’s financial resources and private investments. According to the experts of the Analytical Center, this therefore becomes a public-private partnership where the part of the state consists in providing the infrastructure and the business sector is responsible for further development.  

The program’s priorities include improving the living standards of the population, developing a long-term strategy for work with foreign investors (preventing dominance by any of the groups of investors) and supporting environment-friendly (i.e. not harmful to the environment) tourist products.

The program sets explicit objectives: thus, the amounts polluted waste water dumped into the water bodies in the Baikal natural area must be reduced by no less than 53.3% by 2018, and to naught by 2020. The plan, for example, includes a 25% reduction of the quantity of alga-dominated bogs by 25%, and by 2025 this figure is expected to stand at 50%. Another goal set is to achieve a 131.9% increase the lake’s stock of valuable fish species by 2018 and a 143.6% increase by 2020. The number of tourists visiting is expected to go up to 5 million people a year by 2025, and the forecast for the number of jobs in the tourism sector predicts a maximum rise reaching 37,400. The number of tourist grounds that would comply with all international standards seeing that they are located on the most congested spots shall be as many as 50 in 2018 and as many as 300 in 2025. Under the project estimates, by 2025, the share of renewable energy sources shall be no less than 25%.

Experts of the Analytical Center note that, as of 2014, the production facilities would routinely dump appr. 4 million tonnes of waste water into Baikal (and that figure does not include the waste dumped by households and the private business sector). The situation saw no significant improvement even after the Baikal Pulp and Paper Plant was shut down. The operating production facilities refuse to upgrade their treatment facilities due to the high cost of this, while the local authorities fail to make necessary arrangements for removal of solid waste the quantity of which had doubled between 2009 and 2014, the analysts say, reaching 1.03 million tonnes. The rising number of tourists – since 2010 the industry has grown by 78% - is also anything but conducive to the ecological well-being of the Baikal region. That said, this rise has not resulted in any extra income for either the regional or the federal budget, contributing instead only to the existing burden on the lake’s environmentally vulnerable territory. Experts believe that these factors can be mitigated by means of constructing large solid waste treatment centres on the southern, norther, eastern and western coasts, as well as by means of providing the 50 local communities with waste treatment facilities upgrading the existing ones.

Special attention is accorded in the framework of the project to Baikal’s landmark – Listvyanka, an urban area near where the river Angara flows out of Baikal. It will celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2026. The plan to this date is to construct several new facilities there, like, for example, the Baikal museum, and renovate the existing ones, and to handle the topical issue of the local housing and public infrastructure’s unsatisfactory environmental compatibility. 

The project is currently being examined in detail and discussed; its preparation is expected to be completed by April 2017.

Presentation

Baikal, a great lake in a great country