Concerning developments on the shores of Lake Baikal, IUCN notes that it has received reports that a marina with 5000-7000 beds is planned within the territory of the Republic of Buriatia. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN request the State Party to clarify the extent of this development and submit its Environmental Impact Assessment to the World Heritage Centre when this becomes available and prior to granting permission for the development. They also recall that in Decision 33 COM 7B.28 the Committee had noted with concern that the measures taken by the State Party to halt illegal constructions on the shores appeared ineffective, and had requested the State Party to develop and implement a comprehensive tourism strategy for the property to guide the delivery of sustainable tourism infrastructure.
While the official population of the endemic Baikal seal is between 70,000 and 100,000 individuals (based on visual estimates), there are concerns that these figures do not coincide with the smaller number of individuals observed in the area the Ushkani Islands which is the seal’s preferred habitat (the seal is relatively rare in other areas of the lake). There are also concerns about the impacts of hunting licenses on their population, particularly as these licenses are not effectively controlled. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN strongly recommend that the State Party resume funding for long-term monitoring of the seal population, which as indicated below is likely to also be affected by climate change and reduction in ice cover.
A recent peer-reviewed article ‘Climate Change and World’s “Sacred Sea” – Lake Baikal, Siberia’ (BioScience, 2009) demonstrates that Lake Baikal is already being affected by climate change, based on an analysis of water temperature and ice cover. By the end of the century the lake’s ice cover, upon which its endemic plankton and Baikal seal depend, is likely to significantly recede, leading to changes in Lake Baikal’s ecosystem. Moreover, melting permafrost may exacerbate the effects of current industrial pollution and accelerate the release of stored toxic chemicals, such as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and dioxins, into Lake Baikal. The World Heritage Centre and IUCN consider that the impacts of climate change should be monitored over the long-term and adequate mitigation measures developed and implemented based on early detection of emerging trends.
The World Heritage Centre and IUCN express their concern over the impacts of the re- opened Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill on the property’s Outstanding Universal Value and recommend that the Director of the World Heritage Centre in cooperation with IUCN convene a meeting with the Russian authorities, with the participation of relevant stakeholders, to discuss how these impacts can be addressed.
34 COM 7B.22
The World Heritage Committee,
Having examined Document WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add,
Recalling Decision 33 COM 7B.28, adopted at its 33rd session (Seville, 2009),
Notes with serious concern the recent re-opening of the Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill
(BPPM) without a close-loop water system as well as the continued pollution from the Selenga river, and considers that the ongoing discharge of polluted waters from the mill and the Selenga river could impact the Outstanding Universal Value of Lake Baikal;
State of conservation of World Heritage properties inscribed on the World Heritage List
WHC-10/34.COM/7B.Add, p. 39