Russia's Lake Baikal 'extremely polluted', Putin warns

August 4, 2017
Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the world's deepest lake at 1,700 metres (5,580 feet) and also the oldest at 25 million years

Russia's Lake Baikal, the world's deepest freshwater lake, has extremely high pollution levels, President Vladimir Putin warned Friday while visiting the Siberian lake.

Lake Baikal is a UNESCO World Heritage site, the world's deepest at 1,700 metres (5,580 feet) and also the oldest at 25 million years. Tourists flock there to enjoy the unique wildlife and clear waters.

Putin, while meeting officials in a room looking onto the shimmering waters of the lake, complained that "significant areas around Baikal have suffered extremely high pollution."

Saying that Baikal "belongs to the entire planet," Putin insisted that preserving it for future generations is "undoubtedly a government priority."

The Russian strongman has declared that environmental issues are a personal passion and has spent time tracking whales and tigers and even flown with migrating cranes. In 2009 he went down to the bottom of Lake Baikal in a mini-submarine.

But he was also instrumental in keeping a polluting factory open beside the lake and has presided over a crackdown on environmental activists and non-governmental organisations, including those specifically trying to protect Baikal.

On Friday, Putin called for officials to pay "special attention" to clean up the aftermath of "irrational and often irresponsible economic activity" around the lake, and to prevent such damage happening again.

A giant Soviet-built paper mill right beside the lake sullied its waters for decades but it was finally closed in 2013. Putin had reopened the plant in 2010 after it initially shut in 2008, citing concerns over employment for local residents.

Putin said the lake's waters were now being polluted by household sewage and chemicals from farming, citing the need to "drastically cut down the volume of untreated being discharged into the lake."

He called for the Prosecutor-General's Office to carry out a check into illegal and environmentally damaging activity around the lake and "take the necessary measures."

In 2013, a group campaigning to protect the lake called Baikal Wave, was dubbed a "foreign agent" under tough new legislation targeting NGOs with foreign funding.

The group, founded in 1990, closed down in 2016, saying it had become impossible for it to function.

Explore further: Russia moves to shut down Lake Baikal paper mill

Related Stories

Russia moves to shut down Lake Baikal paper mill

February 28, 2013

A controversial Soviet-era paper mill on the shores of Lake Baikal will be closed down, a government spokeswoman said Thursday, after years of complaints about pollution at the UNESCO-protected Siberian site.

Russians rally to save Lake Baikal

March 27, 2010

Russians on Saturday protested at the reopening of a paper mill on the shore of Lake Baikal which environmentalists say endangers one of the world's largest freshwater reserves.

Polluting Siberian paper mill shuts down

September 16, 2013

The polluting paper mill on the shores of Russia's Lake Baikal, the world's deepest freshwater lake, has shut and will be firing almost 800 workers this week, employees and management said on Monday.

Water pollution continues at famous Russian lake

March 24, 2008

Despite widespread concerns about preserving the world’s largest body of fresh water, researchers report that pollution is continuing in Russia’s fabled Lake Baikal. The study is scheduled for the April 15 issue of ACS’ ...

Recommended for you

The pace at which the world's permafrost soils are warming

January 16, 2019

Global warming is causing increasing damage in the world's permafrost regions. As the new global comparative study conducted by the international permafrost network GTN-P shows, in all regions with permafrost soils the temperature ...

Sewers could help clean the atmosphere

January 16, 2019

Sewage treatment—an unglamorous backbone of urban living—could offer a cost-effective way to combat climate change by flushing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.