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'Lake Baikal, where the ice queen cast her spell'
Mike Carter, The Observer, 2009

Stark warning about the impact of rising numbers of tourists polluting pristine waters of Baikal

By Anna Liesowska
05 April 2013

The famously clear waters of Baikal - the world's deepest and oldest lake - are under threat from tourists, says leading scientist Maxim Timofeyev.

'A few decades ago, the number of tourists was about a few thousand people a year, then tens of thousands. In 2010 the number of tourists approached a half million people per year - and the flow keeps growing. Picture: The Siberian Times 

Professor Timofeyev warned Baikal's famous 'clean brand' could be lost if action is not taken. 

In general the conditions in this Russian jewel are 'alarming but stable', he said. He means that tests of the Siberian lake, containing 20 per cent of the world's freshwater, show 'encouraging results' despite a number of long-term and well-known threats. 

'The basic hydro-chemical properties of the water are stable and the levels of various contaminants and organic chemicals as well. That's if we are talking about the main part of the lake,' he said. 

But the professor, who is director of the Baikal Research Centre and the chair of hydro-biology and zoology at Irkutsk State University, pointed to the tourist boom at Baikal as a cause for concern. 

'A few decades ago, the number of tourists was about a few thousand people a year, then tens of thousands. The statistics of 2006-2009 gives us a figure of more than 300,000 people; and in 2010 the number of tourists approached a half million people per year'. 

'And the flow of tourists keeps growing. There are special economic zones on Baikal, focused on recreation; the strategy of the economic development of the Irkutsk region and the Republic of Buryatia is essentially the same - namely Baikal 'as a tourist destination'. 

Lake Baikal Siberia


Lake Baikal Siberia

Professor Timofeyev warned Baikal's famous 'clean brand' could be lost if action is not taken. Pictures: 360 minutes for Baikal, The Siberian Times

'This explosive growth in the tourist field led to the situation when the tourist facilities grow around the lake - and in the villages - like mushrooms, and the majority of local residents rejected the traditional economic activities and switched actively to the travel industry. 

'Unfortunately, no-one plans and controls these processes and it leads to serious local problems. The number of accredited private tourist boats is close to 500. Still there is no associated infrastructure for such a large-scale growth of tourist transport. 

'The collection of waste bilge, oily and faecal waters is not organised. All these ships are working virtually unchecked, and pour all their drains directly into the lake. In the heavily loaded tourist areas, the coast is intensively littered and coastal water is polluted'.

'What happens to the tourist industry on Lake Baikal is the road to nowhere'. 

Mr Timofeyev picked out other threats, including the Baikal Paper and Pulp Mill, soon to be closed.

'Of course it is dangerous, because it is one of the major pollutants of both water and air of Baikal'.

Another is 'chemical pollution coming into the lake with the Selenga River'.

Comments (3)

just sting your guests for money if they leave THAT amounts of litter behind. simples.
Joan, Australia
06/04/2013 17:19
3
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sunny Baikal looks quite appealing... anyone to join me for a trip to Siberia...?
Mark, that side of the pond
06/04/2013 01:38
2
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oh go on, stop moaning about it - introduce the draconian fines and in five years from now you'll forget about the litter. Make sure the fines are gathered at the stop. Look at countries like Switzerland, or I don't know think english camping sites- no-one would dare leaving that amount of rubbish behind.

Your tourists need to be educated and the fastest way to do it is to hit their wallets - next time they will remember. Meanwhile Baikal is beautiful; I would definitely go there... and I promise to keep it clean!
Derek, Glasgow
06/04/2013 01:31
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1

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