Protect Lake Baikal
THIS PETITION HAS BEEN SENT TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION on 04/18/2010. You can still sign the petition if you are a scientist with a Ph.D. degree.
To Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation
Mr. President: We are writing to you to express our deep concerns about the recent changes made by the government of the Russian Federation in the list of activities prohibited in the area of Lake Baikal that led to the hasty reopening of the Baikalsk pulp and paper mill. It is well known that the mill, built back in 1966 and temporarily closed in 2008, has been by far the largest air and water polluter of the Lake Baikal region, emitting and accumulating large quantities of sulfur dioxide (the cause of acid rains), nitrogen dioxide (a toxic gas), and dioxins (the most toxic man-made organic chemicals) among others. The reopening of the mill may have disastrous consequences for the flora and fauna of the lake and surrounding protected areas as well as to the health of the human population inhabiting the region. This is particularly so because of the outdated equipment employed at the mill, the large amount of accumulated toxic waste stored at its site, and the lack of transparency in, and control over, its operation. We are convinced that the reopening of the Baikalsk pulp and paper mill directly threatens the Lake Baikal, one of the UNESCO World Nature Heritage Sites protected by the law of the Russian Federation and by Russia’s international agreements.
Situated in Southeast Siberia, Russia, Lake Baikal is the oldest, deepest, and most voluminous lake in the world that contains 20% of the world's, and 90% of Russia’s total unfrozen fresh water. The combination of Baikal’s age, size, unique hydrological regime, along with other factors, has produced the largest fauna of all known lakes, more than half of which are endemic (e.g., not found anywhere else in the world). Both the total number of described species and the number of endemic species make Lake Baikal a true centre of biological megadiversity, which is of exceptional value to humanity and must be protected for the present and future generations. In addition to its biological significance, Lake Baikal has a central economical and cultural value to the human population of the Trans-Baikal region. Forestry, fisheries, agriculture, hunting, and tourism around Lake Baikal directly benefit from the notion of the lake being an “ecologically-clean” region. Lake Baikal is also central to the culture of people inhabiting the region, which is imbued with a deep reverence for nature and for the lake.
Mr. President, we understand that the operation of the mill has some economical and social benefits to the city of Baikalsk, where the mill is located. However, we are convinced that the damage caused by the mill to the ecosystem of the Lake Baikal, the health of the people, and the overall economy of the region greatly outweighs these benefits. We ask you to revert the changes made by your government that allowed the operation of the Baikalsk pulp and paper mill. We also urge you to address the problems of the mill, including its decommissioning, the processing of the accumulated toxic waste, and the rehabilitation of the site, in the most open way possible, with the involvement of international specialists and help, if needed. Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has an outstanding universal value for all humankind. As a signee of the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, Russia has the duty to do all it can to ensure the protection, conservation, and transmission to future generations of this unique heritage. We trust you will oversee the fulfillment of this duty.