A controversial new bill seeking to ease logging restrictions along the shores of Lake Baikal could deal irreversible damage to the Siberian lake’s unique ecosystem, experts and activists have told The Moscow Times.
Baikal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996 and recognized as the planet’s most outstanding example of a freshwater ecosystem. The world’s largest freshwater lake by volume, Baikal is both sacred to the indigenous populations living around it and a popular eco-tourism destination — but its ecosystem has faced rising threats in recent years.
Russia’s lower house of parliament last month approved amendments to the country’s law on the protection of Lake Baikal in their first reading, which lawmakers say are aimed at developing basic infrastructure in the many remote towns and villages on the lake.
But ecologists who spoke with The Moscow Times believe the amendments would pave the way for mass commercial wood harvesting and the building of outsized tourism infrastructure.
“I think the amendments are made for the development of large tourist projects that…are pointless and loss-making,” said Kristian Rinchinov, an environmental campaigner working with indigenous activists and local nonprofits in the republic of Buryatia.