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'Lake Baikal is truly astonishing. One of the most ancient geographical features on Earth, it is estimated to be 30 million years old'
Marc Di Duca

Potential boost for Baikal as sanctions on economic activity lifted

09 March 2015

New government list of prohibited activities paves the way for new 'environmentally-safe' small businesses near the lake.

The new amended laws have 'lifted restrictions on the distribution in the Baikal Natural Territory of electricity generated outside its boundaries, and on the construction of bakeries, confectionaries and pasta factories.' Picture: Visit Buryatia

The Baikal region has been given a potential economic boost with the lifting of sanctions banning certain types of enterprises near the lake. A revised list of prohibited activities has paved the way for the creation of new small businesses such as bakeries, confectionaries and pasta factories.

The focus has been placed on 'environmentally-safe' projects that will provide jobs for the people of the Irkutsk Region, with the laws now banning coal-fired boilers and the manufacture of paper, paperboard and cellulose.

The Baikal area is rich in flora and fauna, natural resources, and mineral and thermal waters with the jewel in the crown being the lake itself, which is the deepest and oldest in the world.

Thought to be 25 million years old, Baikal stretches for 400 miles through south-eastern Siberia, north of the Mongolian border. It contains 20 per cent of the world’s unfrozen freshwater reserves and in places is said to be about 5,387ft deep.

In a document published on the Russian government’s website on March 7, the new amended laws have 'lifted restrictions on the distribution in the Baikal Natural Territory of electricity generated outside its boundaries, and on the construction of bakeries, confectionaries and pasta factories.'

It adds that the main purpose of the revision is to 'create environmentally-safe production lines that will provide jobs for the population in the Irkutsk Region, now that the environmentally hazardous enterprises have been eliminated.'

Officials said that the amendments would also create a favourable climate for small and medium-sized businesses in priority areas of socio-economic development. The legislation applies to three Siberian regions: Irkutsk, the Republic of Buryatia and the Zabaikalsky (Trans-Baikal) region. 

It was discussed several times by both local and federal officials, with the most active role taken by Vyacheclav Nagovitsyn, the head of Buryatia, since 80 per cent of his territory is in the Baikal conservation area.

Tourism in Buryatia


Tourism in Buryatia

'The Buryat Republic lags behind in many respects. This is due to objective reasons connected with the so-called Baikal factor.' Pictures: Baikal Eco

On November 19 last year, he had appealed to the presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District, Nikolay Rogozhkin, asking to lift some of the restrictions. Nagovitsyn said at the time: 'The Buryat Republic lags behind in many respects.

'This is due to objective reasons connected with the so-called Baikal factor. For two decades federal laws about Baikal decades have prohibited virtually any economic activity in the central ecological zone, and limited it in the Baikal nature zone.'

Representatives of the Ministry of Natural Resources of the Irkutsk region and the Republic of Buryatia also expressed a need to expand the list of permitted commercial activities. In particular, they wanted to allow shipbuilding and the processing of timber and agricultural products.

However, the amendments have not included these demands and instead placed a focus on bakeries, confectionaries and pasta factories.

Meanwhile another document relating to Baikal was published by the government the same day, determining the borders of a water conservation and fisheries protection zone.

The fisheries protection zone is 500 metres wide and means that all economic activities within this area are restricted.

Lake Baikal is said to be home to 1,700 species of plants and animals, two-thirds of which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It even has its own species of seal – the Baikal Seal – with no-one sure how they came to be in the stretch of water, far from any sea or ocean.

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