Russia: Baikal allowed under the knife for the giant fields? (Eurasianet, USA)

Trying to awaken the extinguished interest of business to invest in the Russian economy, the government weakened the protection of lake Baikal.

The reform, known as the “regulatory guillotine” will allow you to do anything in a conservation area, if we allow the President or the government. In the result of preferences can obtain company whose owners have close relations with the Kremlin. The lack of consistency in the protection of the lake can have devastating consequences, warned the “green”.

What is forbidden on Baikal

The Central ecological zone of lake Baikal with an area 89,1 thousand sq. km. covers the lake with its Islands, the coastal strip, as well as three nature reserves, two national parks and five nature reserves.

On the territory the size of Jordan coexist 130 thousand and 2.6 thousand species of plants and animals, two thirds of which are found nowhere else.

Until recently, the law and the accompanying “List of prohibited activities” restricted economic activity in the protected area. Deforestation, mining, and construction were banned or reduced to the satisfaction of local needs.

Within two decades, the document protected the fragile ecosystem of the lake from the “dirty” industries (including pulp and paper, from which she suffered for a long time).

However, the “regulatory guillotine” may call into question the protected status of the lake.

The essence of the reform

Until the end of the year, the government plans to get rid of the mandatory requirements that hinder the conduct of business.

Among them are outdated and meaningless and necessary, experts say. Revision, in particular, will turn up environmental standards.

The selection and processing regulations working group, consisting mainly of businessmen. Therefore, social activists fear that the interests of citizens and nature are not taken into account.

A draft updated List, prepared by Ministry of environment makes this a good reason.

In the document there was a clause, according to which the prohibitions do not apply to investment projects approved by the government or the President.

This means that any dangerous object, whether a pipeline, a nuclear power plant or a pulp and paper mill, may appear on the shores of the lake with the blessing of the highest authorities, conclude the experts of “Greenpeace Russia”.

The future of lake Baikal in the hands of Putin

The fate of lake Baikal and had decided in the Kremlin. For example, in 2006-m Vladimir Putin has ordered Transneft to build oil pipeline “Eastern Siberia-Pacific ocean” to bypass the Baikal coast.

In 2009, Putin (then the head of the government) dropped to the bottom of lake Baikal in a submersible, stating that the lake “in good condition” and “no pollution is present”.

Environmentalists did not share such optimism. They demanded to close owned by Oleg Deripaska, the Baikal pulp and paper mill, while Putin called for its retention.

The fate of a hazardous facility decided Dmitry Medvedev: in 2013, the Baikal pulp and paper mill finally closed.

Shortly before the last presidential election, Putin again came to the lake. Releasing fry into the water rare Baikal omul, he gave a mandate to prevent harmful economic activities on the lake.

May 2018 decree “On the national order” proclaimed the preservation of lake Baikal as one of the priorities of state policy. However, the same decree ordered to resolve logistical constraints to export, including in railway transport. Perhaps it will have dire consequences for the Baikal region.

Economy vs ecology

In July 2020, Putin signed a law allowing to cut down forests in the course of modernization of the Railways — the BAM and the TRANS-Siberian railway, near lake Baikal. The ambitious railway project involves the construction of new routes and extension stations to increase the capacity of highways connecting Russia with the Asian markets.

The Corporation assure that affected only the landing adjacent to the rail lines. Calming the public, the head of Buryatia Alexey Tsydenov said that it would destroy basically “shrub and small shoots” and is one felled tree will be planted five new.

However, according to experts of “Greenpeace Russia” Mikhail Kreindlin, the law will allow you to build transport infrastructure in the bypass state environmental review, and that is the main danger.

“I can repeat accidents and disasters similar in scope Norilsk (spill 21 thousand tons of diesel fuel from the tank of the CHP in may 2020),” warns ecologist.


Baikal could be a huge pantry of natural resources for the Russian capital.

For example, located to the North of lake Kholodnenskoe field contains, according to experts, 46% of the world reserves of zinc and 14% lead. The development of mines were claimed by different companies, but so far it is hampered by environmental constraints.

The government of Buryatia are concerned about the resumption of production of tungsten and molybdenum on an abandoned in the 1990s, the fields of the zakamenskiy district. Meanwhile, according to scientists, the former mines is the most unfavorable from an environmental point of view part of the Baikal natural territory.

Near lake Baikal are concentrated huge reserves of oil — estimated at about 250-300 million tons, which is comparable with the volume of the Great field was discovered in Astrakhan region (call it the largest oil project in recent years). At the same time, experts warn, the beginning of the development of the Baikal oil would have caused irreparable damage to the ecosystem of the lake.

Is threatening lake Baikal and chaotic logging. Despite the veneer of struggle with “black woodcutters”, the forest area adjacent to the lake in Irkutsk region fell by a third over the last twenty years.

The “regulatory guillotine” will further weaken the control of the loggers, I believe in Greenpeace. The new rules would allow clear cutting of dead or damaged trees, if the regional authorities will declare an emergency situation related to forest pests.

This year alone, insects forced the authorities to introduce a regime of emergency in the Orenburg region, Krasnoyarsk Krai and Bashkortostan Republic.

If this happens on the lake, commercial enterprises will have the right to cut and sell the reserve, including pine forest, which may lead to abuse, are considered “green”.

The ban on farming in the Central ecological zone of lake Baikal was one of the requirements of UNESCO that placed lake in the world heritage list, reminiscent of the environmentalists. However, the Russian elite, perhaps your views of this “inheritance”.