The Baikal region territory takes up the area of about 27.05 million hectares and is mostly made up of the taiga mountain systems (the ranges of Khamar-Daban, the Ulan-Burgasy, the Ikat, the Barguzin, the Upper Angara, the Tsagan-Daban, the Tsagan-Khurtei, the Khorongul, the Dzhida, the Zagan, the Malkhan, the Yablonevy and others) which are oriented in the north-eastern and sub-latitude directions, and inter-mountain cavities of the Baikal and Transbaikal types situated among them.
Mostly alluvial-meadow, meadow, meadow-chestnut, chestnut and grey forest soils of intermountain cavities and foothills are used for agriculture. By their mechanic composition the soils are mostly light ones (light loam, sandy-loam and sandy soils).
Agricultural lands possess low fertility potential and are characterized by low humus and nutrient substances content and they are also subject to water and wind erosions.
A greater part of the lands is situated on the territory of the Republic of Buryatia (19.05 million hectares), one-fifth part (5.5 million hectares) taking up the watershed area of the Khilok and the Chikoi rivers is in the Chita region and about 10% (2.5 million hectares) are in the Irkutsk region. It is necessary to mention that more than 66% of the Republic of Buryatia territory are included into Lake Baikal basin and practically all the population, agriculture and industry of the republic are located there.
The Baikal region territory is divided into 24 administrative districts where about 1.18 million people live nowadays, including 0.73 million people (62%) in the towns and cities and 0.45 million people (38%) in the villages. The population is spread unevenly about the territory of the region: at an average density of 4 people per 1 sq. km, a high level of density almost 3 times more than an average regional value characterizes the most economically developed districts adjacent to the Transsiberian railway and situated in the Selenga river valley, where about 70% of the whole Baikal region population live.
The urban population live in 51 populated areas. In the only big city of the region, Ulan Ude, about a half of all the urban residents live. Towns and settlements play a considerable role in the system of settling. The towns density in the region is insignificant: 16 populated areas per 100 thousand sq. km. 40 out of 51 urban settlements are concentrated near railways.
The rural population is spread over 758 populated areas, the number of population in which is from 1 to 7 thousand people and characterized mostly by linear settling forms – along transport communications, in river valleys.
Urban settlements are characterized mostly by their industrial, transport and energetic specialization, whereas district centres function as the local organizing centres. The exclusions are multi-functional towns: Ulan Ude, Gusinoozersk and Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky.
In 1992 citizens and agricultural farms were first allotted land. The village administrations land property has considerably (more than 10 times) grown, agricultural lands have reduced, which is connected with the destruction of the command-administrative management system, with violation and worsening of the provision of agricultural production with technical equipment, spare parts, fuel and lubricants.
Agricultural production is being reduced, a great number of community cattle is being eliminated and the agricultural areas usage is being reduced.
The condition of the Baikal region land resources can be recognized as satisfactory. Almost all the lands need correct and ecologically competent usage. As a result of erosion processes development and insufficient fertilizers application the annual humus losses in the fields are 0.5 tons per hectare, nitrogen and phosphorus deficit is 35 kg per hectare. More than 85% of the total land area are subject to erosion. Because of the pastures being tramped down on big areas valuable vegetation has disappeared and weeds and poisonous herbs of low value have taken its place. The cultural and technical state of the greater part of fodder lands is bad and they do not fully provide cattle farming with coarse and green fodder.
The fodder lands of the region are situated irregularly. Big areas are concentrated in the mountain taiga zone with prevailing types of permafrost soils. About 440 thousand hectares of productive fodder lands are covered with stones and over 600 thousand hectares of pastures and hayfields need some melioration of this or that kind because they are subject to erosion.
Within the agricultural lands of the Baikal region nowadays about 210 thousand hectares of salted lands are registered. Salted soils are most spread in the southern, south-eastern and south-western parts of the region in the valleys of the Selenga, the Chikoi, the Khilok, the Dzhida and the Uda rivers.
Saline lands are in the lowering relief parts of the region southern dry steppe part, there are also complexes of salted soils with saline lands which are represented by meadow-steppe and steppe types. The area of saline lands complexes of agricultural lands is 23 thousand hectares. Nowadays there are no sufficient activities for amelioration of the salted soils.
Soil erosion in the Baikal region is exclusively great and it has grown into a serious economic and ecological problem. This process annually affects over 70% of ploughed fields.
In connection with the land reform in the Republic of Buryatia, with new works formation, transferring the lands under the authority of rural power bodies and formation of lands redistribution foundation, the areas of erosive lands were specified according to the data of state registration and they are characterized as follows: the total area of lands subject to erosion is 773.4 thousand hectares, including those subject to wind erosion -–346.8; water erosion – 247.8 and combination of both water and wind erosion – 178.8 thousand hectares. Among them strong eroded lands occupy 106.1 thousand hectares, medium one occupy 565.6 and low eroded ones take up 101.7 thousand hectares.
In the Chita region there are 78.6 thousand hectares of eroded land within the borders of the Baikal region. Out of them 28.5 thousand hectares are in the Krasnochikoi district, 14.9 – in the Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky district, 3.5 – in the Khilok district and 31.7 thousand hectares in the Chita district, out of which 19.6% of lands are strongly eroded, 46.8% are eroded to a medium extent and 33.6% are low eroded.
To reduce the negative effect of erosion processes a complex of organizing-economical, agrotechnical, forest meliorative and hydrotechnical measures are taken.
The level of agricultural lands fertility and their economic value are determined by different factors forming the grown cultures productivity. They are subdivided into three main groups: natural, technological and organizing-economical ones.
The natural factor includes water-physical and agrochemical characteristics, the humus and nutrient substances stock, water and heat regimens of the agricultural cultures growing zones. They are the main harvest limiting factors.
Technological factor includes the whole process of growing agricultural cultures starting with the soil tilling, applying organic and mineral fertilizers, sowing, maintenance and finishing with harvest reaping.
Organizing-economic factors include the activities starting with planning, choice of cultures and sorts and finishing with getting the final production together with economic grounding. They also include organizing activities to provide the farms with the necessary agricultural technical equipment, mineral and organic fertilizers, fuels and lubricants and plants protection means.
The indicators of the lands used for agricultural production are: the gross output in cadastre prices (by particular estimation, the normal productivity of agricultural cultures); cover of expenditures; differential income and its specific volume in the gross production; the output of fodder units; the production cost price; the fund capacity by the main funds and labour intensiveness per land hectare (by particular estimation, per metric centner of production). Besides, expenditures per 1 metric centner of production; normal expenditures per hectare – totally, excluding the seeds expenditures; circulating capital and general work input per sown area hectare in man-hours, labour and technical equipment productivity during field works are calculated by particular estimation.
Agricultural lands of the Baikal region have got low fertility potential. The average output of fodder units is 3.71 with the mark of 7.42, and the differential income is 6.39 roubles per hectare. The most prosperous lands are in the Kabansk district with the fodder units output of 8.96 metric centners per hectare; the Olkhon district with 7.41; the Pribaikalsky district with 6.25 metric centners per hectare. The lands of 14 districts out of 21 are less than the medium level. The agricultural lands of the Kurumkan, the Barguzin, the Yeravna, the Khorinsk, the Kizhinga, the Zaigrayevo, the Ivolginsk, the Selenginsk, the Zakamensk and the Chita districts are potentially unprofitable, which have got 1,152,709 hectares (of estimated area) which corresponds to 56% of the total estimated area.
The industrial development in the region has affected the environment. According to the data by the State ecological committee of the Republic of Buryatia and the regional ecological and nature usage committees of the Irkutsk and the Chita regions the annual discharge into the atmosphere is over 200 thousand tons of polluting substances, 48% of that quantity are motor transport discharges.
On the territory of urban development there are lands affected by dangerous processes, such as flooding, sinking and mountain torrent phenomena. They are displayed in the left bank part of Ulan Ude, the settlements of the Dzhida, the Kyakhta and the Barguzin districts which are affected by floods from time to time. The mentioned phenomena lead to considerable rise in the cost of construction.
The mountain torrents can affect the towns of Kyakhta, Zakamensk, Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky, Baikalsk, Slyudyanka, as well as the southern Baikal land and separate parts of the Baikal-Amur railway where engineering protection of the town territories is necessary, especially those situated along the Selenga, the Uda, the Dzhida, the Chikoi, the Khilok and the Barguzin river banks.
The Baikal region forest lands are located unevenly. The lands occupied by forests make up 67% of the territory with coniferous forests prevailing. By their economic meaning on the lands of the forest fund the forests are divided into three groups. The first group forests have water protection functions with a limited usage regimen and occupy 32% of the total area; the second group forests with regulated forest usage regimen occupy 18.6% and the third group is with the status of the principal industrial usage, 49.4%.
The destroyed lands are the mines quarries, the surface gaps on the minefields, the road builders quarries dumps, as well as of coal mining and other mining industries. Those lands are characterized by low economic value and pollute the environment, they deteriorate the sanitary and hygienic living conditions of the population and complicate the lands usage.
Nowadays the areas of the destroyed lands are about 6,000 hectares. Their increase is connected with the development of new deposits by constructing new quarries. Besides, 735 hectares of land are dumped with construction wastes and household litter around the settlements and villages.
Minor land violations are mostly by small businesses. Sometimes such quarries are developed without permission and land allotment acts, only on the ground of quarry land allotments.
After the working out all the destroyed lands should be recultivated – their productivity and economic value should be restored with their usage in agriculture, forestry and water economy and in constructing the objects of civic and industrial purposes.
The destroyed lands recultivation in the Republic of Buryatia is not done at the due level, it is done without the fertile soil layer restoration. Only mining-technical recultivation is done on practically all the quarries. The law requirements on taking off and separate storing of the soil layer are not fulfilled.
Many industrial works have stopped the destroyed lands restoration because of the activity being underfinanced.
The main reason of the nature protection legislation violations by mining the common minerals is the low level of organizing and requirements on the problems of the earth bowels on the part of the local administrations and the local bodies of the Russia State Ecology Committee.
The radiation condition of the Baikal region lands has been geologically researched within the latest decade. It is stated that the Baikal land (Pribaikalye) and the Transbaikal land (Zabaikalye), especially the Baikal region territory are one of the main Russian uranium ores provinces where there are 5 known deposits and more than 140 uranium ore displays, as well as more than 450 radio-active anomalies. The great number of anomalies shows the region prospects in exposure of the objects of radio-active raw materials, underlining, on the other hand, the danger of high irradiation by the natural sources of ionizing irradiation.
In the towns of Ulan Ude, Zakamensk, Gusinoozersk, Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky and other populated areas of the region, the facts of using the materials (stone, sand, slags) with over-permissible specific effective activity for building living houses have been stated. The danger of the heightened irradiation on the territory is proved by numerous radio-active anomalies and a number of uranium ore displays on the lands of natural boundaries (the Krasnoyarsk, the Gurulba, the Verkhne-Berezovka, the Arshan ones) where the maximum values of gamma-efectiveness are up to 190 mcr/hour.
Other areas of the heightened background radiation of technogenous origin are polluted soils of non-destroyed meadow-alluvial and slope forest landscapes (cesium-137 and strontium-90). The most polluted territories are parts of the Baikal coast within the Kabansk, the Pribaikalsk, the Severobaikalsk and the Slyudyanka districts of the Baikal region, as well as the Dzhida river valley where the content of cesium-137 2-3 times higher than the maximum acceptable level of concentration determined in the USA for the residents of the locality. The most probable sources of such pollution are the land nuclear tests of 1949-1962.
The above mentioned data show that on the territory of the Baikal region there is the problem of radiation safety provision for the population.
The analysis of the modern state of land resources usage has shown that since the beginning of the Russian Federation land reform the land fund structure changes annually and is reflected in the following figures:
- the area of agricultural usage has reduced 2.2 times;
- the lands under the authority of local administrations has grown 8.3 times;
- the portion of non-agricultural lands is at the level of the 80’s;
- the indicator of other lands has grown considerably (2.2 times).
The land reform and the economics transition to the market relations have radically changed the agricultural lands usage.
The positive effect of the reform is in the fact that with the administrative-command system elimination and introduction of different property forms the way to the economically grounded and more efficient usage of the agricultural lands has opened. The instance of that is the withdrawal of unproductive and degraded lands from the circulation.
The negative side of the reforms is lack of preparation for it both from moral and material (financial) point of view. The economic system destruction, mass unemployment in agricultural sector, lack of any effective guidance and spontaneous character of the land reform realization make up an undesirable background in the land policy of the Russian Federation.
The Baikal region lands quality estimation has shown considerable departures from their background condition to reducing the soils fertility, considerable growth in lands degradation because of water and wind erosions, deterioration of their ecological condition and radiation situation in connection with soils pollution with heavy metals ions and oncogenous isotopes.
Cardinal measures are necessary to fight the mentioned processes which have serious ecological consequences.