This Russian treasure has 1,500 species of flora and fauna not found anywhere else on the planet.
The prime minister said that the fate of the plant had led to 'heated debates'. The plant began work in 1966 and produces 200,000 tons of pulp annually. Picture: A.Dvorkovich
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said: 'It's time to muster up the courage and make responsible decisions'. Environmentalists say Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill threatens the lake's unique species of plants and animals.
Bailkal is the world's deepest lake holding more water than all the Northern American Great Lakes combined. Previous closure attempts have failed due to the threat to employment in Baikalsk, which has a 14,000 population, and the need for the pulp produced by the mill.
Baikalsk is a single industry town but now will be forced to diversify and embrace tourism.
At the lake on Tuesday, Medvedev insisted 'there's no way back' on the decision to close the plant. He pledged nearly $1 billion toward the development of the area and also hinted at tax breaks to boost Baikal tourism.
The prime minister said that the fate of the plant had led to 'heated debates'. The plant began work in 1966 and produces 200,000 tons of pulp annually.
Medevdev was speaking at Listvyanka during a meeting the United Russia activists. New plans for Baikalsk include a tourist economic zone. 'Major work is in store,' said Medvedev.
The problems associated with the closure were highlighted by the absence of hot water in the town currently, due to the municipality's debts, it is claimed.
The tourism zone should be set up by the end of the summer.
Environmentalists call for World Bank to halt funding for projects that could alter flow of rivers leading into lake with water nearing critical low.
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