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TEN YEARS: IS IT MUCH OR LITTLE?

Author:  S. Shapkhaev

Ten years ago, in 1996, at the 20th regular session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, in Merida (Mexico) the borders of the “Lake Baikal” World Nature Heritage site         (# 754) were approved. But only in November 2006 the Russian Federation legalized them at the national level.

CHRONOLOGY OF THE WORKING OUT AND APPROVAL OF THE CENTRAL ECOLOGICAL ZONE OF THE BAIKAL NATURAL TERRITORY (CEZ BNT)

1996

“In addition to political limits and administrative structures the legal foundation for managing Lake Baikal (LB) resources is represented by the new Federal law on Lake Baikal protection. This law has passed the first reading in the Russian State Duma and in the nearest future its final adoption is expected. The English version of the law (April, 1995) which is supported by the local authorities, was considered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) and fully approved as a stable foundation for strengthening the protection of LB and its surrounding area. The law distinguishes three zones among other things:

1)      the central lake zone, adjacent lands and protected territories;

2)      the buffer zone including practically the entire watershed basin;

3)      the zone of atmospheric influence.

After thorough discussion with Russian authorities an agreement was concluded that the best variant for nominating the World Heritage is the central zone including Lake Baikal with the adjacent protected territories and other lands within the water protection zone. The only difference with the central zone in accordance with the Federal Law is that 4 big urban centres located on the shore of the lake are excluded from the limits of the World Heritage Site. They are the most developed areas with considerable number of inhabitants, including the towns of Baikalsk, Slyudyanka, Kultuk, Babushkin and Severobaikalsk. A detailed map (scale 1:2,500,000) marking the exact limits of the World Heritage Site, is enclosed. The total area is about 8.8 mln hectares, out of which 3.15 mln hectares are the territory of Lake Baikal itself. The total area of reserves and national parks is also included and is 1.9 mln hectares.” (Documentation about the World Heritage Sites (Nature nominations). The World Heritage Committee. Twentieth regular session, December 2-7, 1996, Merida, Mexico. Submitted by UICN. Gland, Switzerland, October 10, 196).

 

THE AUTHOR’S COMMENT

In the supplement to the above mentioned Draft Federal Law “On Lake Baikal Protection” (April 1995) a detailed description of the central zone was given, which was taken as the foundation while preparing the description of the Lake Baikal World Heritage Site limits by the Russian Federation Government for nominating it at the 20th regular session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 1996. The border of the central zone embraced the Baikal cavity, went over the tops of the coastal mountains and made up a strip of land adjoining the lake 20 km wide in average, changing from 10 km (in the southern part of the lake and near the Selenga delta) to 80 km (at the northern end of the lake). This variant of the Central zone borders also corresponded, with a little exclusion, with the borders of the so called First protecting zone of Lake Baikal adopted in 1990 by the Russian Federation Council of Ministers Presidium. But in the latest variant of the Federal Law “On Lake Baikal Protection” adopted by the Russian Federation President three years after Lake Baikal got the World Heritage Site status (# 94- of May 1, 1999), this description of the central zone borders disappeared miraculously from the text of the law and the question of its borders is still open.

According to Art.2 Cl.2 of the Federal Law “On Lake Baikal Protection”, the central ecological zone (CEZ) is the territory including Lake Baikal with the islands, the water protection zone adjacent to the lake, as well as the specially guarding nature territories adjacent to Lake Baikal. According to Russian Federation Government Resolution On Adopting the Regulations of Water Protection Zones of Water Objects and Their Coastal Protecting Strips # 1404 of November 23, 1996, the minimum width of water protection zone for Lake Baikal is 0.5 km.

Since 2001 the question of including Lake Baikal in the “World Heritage List of Endangered Objects” has been discussed at the sittings of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee because of ecologically dangerous projects which threaten its ecosystem (exploiting the hydrocarbon deposit in the Selenga river delta, exploiting the Kholodnoye polymetallic ores deposit, building main gas and oil pipelines via the lake watershed). The UNESCO missions go to the Baikal (2001, 2003, and 2005) to know the situation on the spot.

1998

The UNESCO Baikal monitoring mission expresses its anxiety about the fact that the Federal Law “On Lake Baikal Protection” has not been adopted yet.

1999

The Russian Federation President B.N. Yeltsin approves the Federal Law “On Lake Baikal Protection”.

2001

The UNESCO and IUCN Baikal monitoring mission expresses its apprehension of the projects of building gas and oil pipelines on the Baikal watershed territory.

2001-2002

On the threshold of the regular session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee the Russian Federation Government issues its resolution “The List of Activities Banned in the Central Ecological Zone of the Baikal Nature Territory” on August 30, 2001 # 643, where, in particular, the construction of main oil and gas pipelines, as well as raw oil and gas, radioactive and metal ores extraction are banned.

In 2001 the workers of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SB RAS), Geography Institute, SB RAS Baikal Nature Usage Institute and SB RAS Chita Natural Resources Institute prepared a project of the Baikal nature territory zone division ordered by the Irkutsk Region State Nature Resources Administration; the borders of the water protection zone were 0.5 km-4.0 km away from the shore line of Lake Baikal (the scientific supervisor is A.N. Antipov, SB RAS Geography Institute, deputy director, the senior executor is V.M. Plyusnin), i.e. they were considerably narrower than the borders of the World Natural Heritage. These borders became the subject of heated argument between the authors of the project and the representatives of the social regional ecological organizations at the public hearing in March 2002 in Ulan-Ude. The public hearing documents say in particular:

“Some perplexity is caused by the fact that, working out the methodology of defining the water protection zone borders, the authors did not use home materials made at SB RAS Geography Institute (N.P. Polikarpov, R.M. Babintseva and others, 1978) or the results of the basic work by V.S. Mikheyev (Landscape and Geographic Provision of the Baikal Basin Protected Territory. Preprint, SB RAS Geography Institute Publishing House, Irkutsk, 1988. p. 63) where singling out the border of internal ecological zone” is grounded by the landscape approach; that zone later became the basis of Lake Baikal First protective zone.

Secondly, and it is the principal disadvantage of the foundation of singling out the borders of the water protection zone chosen by the authors, new activities, potentially dangerous for lake Baikal ecosystem, were not taken into consideration while making the project of the CEZ BNT; these activities are mentioned in the List of Activities Banned in the CEZ BNT and adopted by the Russian Federation Resolution of August 30, 2001 # 643. First of all the question is about the plans of hydrocarbon deposit exploitation in Ust-Selenga depression (Lake Baikal water area), investment projects of building main pipelines from Russia to China and the plans of new mineral deposits exploitation on the territory of the Baikal UNESCO World Heritage Site, for example, Kholodnoye polymetallic ores deposit, exploitation of which was suspended in the 90’s thanks to adoption of the Russian Federation Government Resolution on Lake Baikal.

 

So, the variant of defining the borders of the Baikal water protection zone proposed by the author, practically depreciates the effect of the List of Activities Banned in the CEZ BNT approved by the Russian Federation Government on August 30, 2001 # 643. Realizing that variant of zone division will have extremely negative consequences not only for the unique lake ecosystem, but also for the society, because the development of big business ecologically dangerous projects will influence in the negative way both on the local population traditional trades and on the development of tourism and recreation at LakeBaikal”. (Suppl. 3 of the final document of the public hearing on the project “Ecological Zone Division of the Baikal Natural Territory, March 7, 2002, Ulan Ude).     

2003

In accordance with the protocol of the meeting at the Russian Federation Government Chairman M.M. Kasyanov of June 25, 2003, # -9-20-, the Ministry of Nature Resources prepares the Russian Federation Government Resolution “On Approval of the Borders of the Baikal Natural Territory and Its Ecological Zones” also establishing the borders of Lake Baikal World Natural Heritage Site and using the SB RAS Geography Institute materials.

The Russian Federation Government Draft Resolution “On Approval of the Borders of the Baikal Natural Territory and Its Ecological Zones” containing the narrowed variant of the borders of the CEZ BNT zones in the version of the SB RAS Geography Institute, got negative resolution of the public ecological expert testing (approved by the order of Greenpeace Council of September 12, 2003 # 7-),  and then negative resolution of the Federal testing (approved by the order of Russian Ministry of Nature Resources of October 28, 2003 # 967).

A number of non-government organizations (Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), International Social and Ecological Union (ISEU), Buryat Regional Baikal Association (BRBA), the Baikal Ecological Wave (BEW) and others) addressed V.I. Artyukhov, the Minister of Natural Resources of Russia, and proposed to consider the variant of the CEZ BNT borders corresponding with the borders of the World Natural Heritage Site. The Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources has a meeting where UNESCO representatives participated. Artyukhov supports this proposal of non-government organizations and informs the Prime Minister M.M. Kasyanov about the Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources position on that problem.

2004

Round tables on the problems of ecological zones borders took place In January in Ulan Ude and Irkutsk; they were initiated by the Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources, and the interested public organizations, scientists of the SB RAS and power representatives participated in them. There the scientists and non-government organizations managed to coordinate their positions on the borders of the CEZ BNT:

“The academic council bureau thinks it possible to agree with the opinion of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources that the borders of the central ecological zone can be combined with the borders of Lake Baikal” World Natural Heritage Site, with the exception of 5 towns: Baikalsk, Kultuk, Slyudyanka, Severobaikalsk, Babushkin, taking into consideration the prospects of their development (Extract from the resolution of the enlarged session on the problems of Lake Baikal, SB RAS Academic Council Bureau, January 16 (Ulan Ude), January 22, 2004 (Irkutsk), Clause 5).

The Federal Administration of Lake Baikal Nature Protection Activity, the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources (the former Baikalkomvod) prepared a new variant of the Draft Resolution of the Russian Federation Government “On Approving the Borders of the Baikal Natural Territory and Its Ecological Zones”, which contains the variant of the CEZ BNT borders within the borders of the Lake Baikal World Natural Heritage Site that got the positive resolution of the public ecological expert testing (adopted by the order of Greenpeace Council of January 26, 2004 # 10-), and then the positive resolution of the expert commission of the federal level (adopted by the order of the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources of July 5, 2004 # 516).

This project of the Baikal Natural Territory borders and its ecological zones was coordinated with the interested bodies of the executive power of the Russian Federation subjects, with ministries and departments; it was approved at the round table sitting in the State Duma of the Russian Federal Assembly (November 29, 2004) in which representatives of UNESCO and the Federal nature protection department of Germany took part, beside Russian ones. But that project was not approved by the Russian Federation Government.

At the 28th session of the World Heritage Committee in Suchzhou (China, June 28 – July 7, 2004) the participants of the session mentioned the lack of the presented information, including that about zone division of the Baikal Natural Territory. The Committee obliged the Russian Federation Government to present the full and true information about the measures taken to preserve the unique lake.

2005

At the 29th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Durban (South Africa) the question of introducing Lake Baikal into the “List of Endangered World Heritage” was discussed because of projecting main pipelines via its basin. But it was decided by a majority vote to give Russia another opportunity to improve the situation and send the UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission to Lake Baikal.

In September-October the UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission visited Lake Baikal and in its recommendations pointed out the necessity of establishing the CEZ BNT within the borders of the world heritage, as well as inadmissibility of constructing an oil pipeline at the Baikal.

On behalf of the Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources the SB RAS Geography Institute works out a new variant of the borders of the Baikal Natural Territory and its ecological zones, where they return to the narrowed variant of the CEZ BNT, but at the northern end of Lake Baikal the border of the CEZ BNT goes about 1.5 kilometres away from the coastline, so the “East Siberia-Pacific Ocean” (ESPO) oil pipeline is in the CEZ BNT, which makes the line illegitimate. The Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources prepares a new draft of the Russian Federation Government Resolution On Approval of the Borders of the BNT and Its Ecological Zones with this variant of the CEZ BNT and in autumn the Ministry coordinates it with the interested Russian Federation subjects, ministries and departments. But that document was not signed by the Prime Minister M.Ye. Fradkov.

2006

In January 20 Russian non-government ecological organizations addressed the Chairman of the Russian Federation Government M.Ye. Fradkov a letter where they pointed out the inadmissibility of adopting the draft Resolution of the Russian Federation Government “On Approval of the Borders of the BNT and Its Ecological Zones” with the narrowed variant of the CEZ BNT because of serious violations of the Russian legislation while preparing that document (without public discussions and ecological expert testing).

In March 2006 the question of constructing the ESPO oil pipeline at Lake Baikal was initiated by several Russian non-government organizations, included in the recommendations of the “Civil Eight” in Moscow and the Eight’s sherps were informed about it.

20 non-government organizations of Russia addressed the Chairman of the Russian Federation Government M.Ye. Fradkov again with the proposal to review the borders of the CEZ BNT after a number of protest actions in different cities and towns of Russia and a powerful international campaign to protect Lake Baikal. On April 27, 2006 in Tomsk V.V. Putin declared the necessity of moving the ESPO oil pipeline beyond the Baikal watershed territory.

In June, on a commission from the first deputy chairman of the Russian Federation Government D.A. Medvedev, the Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources prepared a revised variant of the Draft Resolution of the Russian Federation Government “On Approval of the Borders of the BNT and Its Ecological Zones” after the materials prepared by SB RAS Geography Institute where the borders of the CEZ BNT are combined with the borders of Lake Baikal World Natural Heritage Site, which corresponds with the positive resolution of the ecological commission adopted by the order of the Russian Federation Ministry of Natural Resources of July 5, 2007 # 516. The circle was closed.

In July the progress in solving the oil pipeline problem was noted at the 30th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Lithuania. At the same time the Committee advises the Russian Federation Government to approve the proposed central ecological zone of Lake Baikal urgently and asks the participant country to provide the World Heritage Centre by February 1, 2007 with a detailed report about the object protection and about the further progress in fulfilling the recommendations of the joint UNESCO/IUCN monitoring mission of 2005 for being controlled by the Committee at the 31st session in 2007.

The inevitable has occurred!

The borders of ecological zones of the Baikal natural territory, including the central ecological zone, the buffer ecological zone and the atmospheric influence zone, are approved by the instruction of the Russian Federation Government of November 27, 2006 # 1641-p.

The central ecological zone of the Baikal natural territory includes the whole territory of the UNESCO World Natural Heritage – Lake Baikal with its islands, the water protection zone of the lake and the specially guarded nature territories adjacent to the lake.

The buffer ecological zone of the Baikal natural territory includes bigger part of the remaining Lake Baikal watershed territory.

After-word

It is still far to the happy end. Amendments to the Federal Law “On Lake Baikal Protection” are being prepared in the Russian Federation State Duma. The water protection zone is supposed to be 2.5 km wide.

On December 18, 2006 the Russian Federation President approves the new federal law “On Reviewing the Russian Federation Town-Planning Code and Other legislation Acts” # 232- where the action of the Federal Law On Ecological Expert Testing is considerably narrowed, including the Baikal natural territory.

  

 











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