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  Main arrow Baikal Discovery Digest arrow Lake Baikal Ecology arrow Greenworld Association: Prptect Lake Baikal in Siberia  

About Baikal lake


  The volume of the water mass in Lake Baikal is approximately 23.000 cubic kilometres. It has a greater water volume than that contained in all five Great Lakes of North America combined (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erei, Ontario).
Such names as t he "sacred sea", "sacred lake", "sacred water" have been given to Lake Baikal for centuries by the indigenous population, by people who came to these shores in the 17th century, and by foreign travellers in their admiration for its majestic and outstanding beauty.
 One of the largest and most ancient lakes in the world it is believed to be over 20 million years old. Situated near the centre of Asia, in a huge stone bowl set 486 yards above sea level, everyone who has been to its shores is impressed and charmed by the grandeur, size, and unusual might of this Siberian miracle of nature.
Baikal is the deepest lake on the Earth. Its average depth is about 798 yards. For the first time it was exactly calculated by G. Yu. Vereshagin in the 30's. The deepest known depth of Baikal (and lakes of the world) is 1790 yards.
 The surface area of Lake Baikal is 12,160 square miles, equal to the area of such countries as Belgium, Holland or Denmark. By its surface area Baikal ranks eighth among world's largest lakes and contains one-fifth of the world's surface water resources (except ice of Antarctica, Greenland and other glaciers).
  Its coastline, a boundary between land and water surfaces, is 498 yards above sea level. On the map it is drawn along the line of an average minimum water level. The real boundary between land and lake - the edge line - is constantly changing due to water fluctuations.
Since the construction of the Irkutsk hydropower station dam, the level of the Baikal has risen by 1 yard. The surface area of the lake has increased by 193 square miles. This has resulted in serious ecological problems.
Lake Baikal is a surprising and unique natural laboratory where one can study the aquatic life within the abyssal fresh waters. New varieties and species of organisms develop continuously in the lake. Throughout its history both the Baikal itself and the organisms inhabiting its world have undergone a complicated evolution. Because of this, the lake is inhabited by very ancient varieties of organisms that originated in the small lake pre-dating the Baikal as well as younger ones that originated in the Baikal itself.
 Inhabitants include more than 300 species of protozoan and about the same number of the most interesting amphipod crustaceans, various flat and roundworms, lower crustaceans, insects, molluscs, fish, and the nerpa (seal).
Ecological problems of lake Baikal
In 1957, when the public first heard about plans for a cellulose plant at Baikalsk, people who had mutely obeyed the Soviet government for 40 years finally howled in protest. Local scientists, writers, fishermen, and ordinary citizens banded together to fight the plant, igniting an environmental movement that was a direct forebear of all Soviet activism to come. But their protests were ignored. The environmentalists lost the battle to stop construction of this huge factory on the shores of Baikal in the 1960's.
Since then to the present time the dumping of industrial waste into Baikal continues, and bilious smoke still rises from the plant 24 hours a day.
Dozens of international expeditions that worked on Baikal during recent years have come to the unanimous opinion: Baikal remains the cleanest reserve of fresh water, but the local alterations in its ecosystem near the Baikal pulp-and-paper plant and the region where the Selenga River flows into Baikal, impose their negative effects on its inhabitants.
The intensive exploitation of the Baikal Territory adversely affects the primordial, easily injured Siberian nature.
The anthropogenic affect on the natural environment of the Baikal region is determined by the zones of economic activity, i.e. the technogenic contamination of the surface and ground waters, atmospheric air and soil. It should be added here that the natural components of the lake possess quite a low immunity to the anthropogenic affect. The data of various scientific institutions of the region shows evidence of a considerable increase of the amount of sulphate in some plots of the Baikal water area (the cities of Baikal’sk, Selenginsk, Gusinoozyorsk, Severobaikal’sk, not to speak of the Irkutsk –Cheremkhovsk industrial zone).
The rivers carrying the waters to the Baikal on the territory of Buryatia are polluted with the drain of such industrial cities, as Zakamensk, Kyakhta, Ulan-Ude, Severobaikal’sk. Heavy contaminants come from the Selenga too, the largest water artery of Buryatia and its tributaries – the Khilok, the Chikoi as well as from the Trans-Sibirian railway road.
In the Mongolian part of the water storing basin of the Baikal the waters of the Selenga are contaminated with the waste of the enterprises of Ulan-Bator and the drain from the pastures in the upper stream of the Selenga.
Far from satisfactory is the condition of the flora (the number of species that need special protection amounts to 10 per cent), the fauna (about 20 per cent of the species found in the region are entered into the Red Book, many of them are on the brink of extinction). All of the above causes anxiety of the population of the Baikal region for its unique lake.
Our mission & goals of Protect Baikal Lake Project are:
• Collection, processing and dissemination of ecological information about Baikal region
• Help to local organisations of Baikal region and Siberia in the solution of the ecological problems of Lake Baikal on an international level
• Promotion of a wide access for international organisations to ecological information about Lake Baikal and Baikal region
• Public involvement in the local ecological issues solution
• Creation and co-ordination of a wide communication network between ecological organisations of Irkutsk and Republic of Buryatia and international ecological organisations
• Promotion of a qualified improvement of local ecological programs in mass media
• Mediation of the public participation in the ecological legislation improvement


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