I am writing to ask your quick help in protecting a very important area for birds and wildlife near my home.
Lake Baikal - the largest and deepest freshwater lake in the world - is being threatened by the construction of an oil pipeline. The lake is identified as a World Heritage Site and is incredibly important for animal and plant life. The lake hosts 1085 species of plants and 1550 species of animals. Over 60% of these animal species are endemic - for example of the 52 species of fish, 27 are endemic.
Please give your support to stop the oil pipeline construction next to Lake Baikal! This might be our last chance to stop a proposal to build an oil pipeline through the Lake Baikal basin. The completed pipeline would come within one kilometer of the lake and cross 10 major rivers that flow into the lake. In very dubious circumstances, the state organization responsible for carrying out environmental impact assessments has approved the project sponsored by the state oil pipeline monopoly, "Transneft."
It is likely that only the intervention of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, can prevent the project from going ahead at this time. Thousands of signatures have been collected opposing the project via the Internet, and thousands more have been collected in the Irkutsk region in a petition for President Putin to call off the project. In the event of an accident (as was recently witnessed in Alaska) up to 40,000 tons of oil could enter the lake within one half hour. Additionally, the area is one of the most seismically active in Siberia, with major earthquakes occurring throughout history in the region.
Please link to this website and take action - http://www.babr.ru/?pt=truba
Your voice (and online vote) can help protect Lake Baikal. All online signatures will be transferred to President Putin of Russia. The organization in charge of the petition has already collected over 20,000 signatures, but your voice is needed!
Please, make your voice heard for the protection of Lake Baikal!
Please, send this letter to your friends and colleagues!
Andrey Varlamov, Hubert Humphrey Fellow, The Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington, Seattle
Lake Baikal is the largest (by volume), deepest and oldest freshwater lake in the world. A designated World Heritage Site, the lake lies in Southern Siberia in Russia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and Buryatia to the southeast, near the city of Irkutsk. The name derives from Tatar "Bai-Kul" - "rich lake". In Russian, it is traditionally called a sea, and in the Buryat and Mongol languages it is called Dalai-Nor, or "Sacred Sea". Baikal has as much water as all of North America's Great Lakes combined - about 20% of the total fresh water on the Earth.
Known as the "Galapagos of Russia", its age and isolation have produced one of the world’s richest and most unusual freshwater faunas, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science. At 636 km long and 80 km wide, Baikal has the largest surface area of any freshwater lake in Asia (31,494 sq. km) and is the deepest lake in the world (1637 meters, previously measured at 1620 meters). The bottom of the lake is 1285 meters below sea level, but below this lies some 7 km (4 miles) of sediment, placing the rift floor some 8-9 km (more than 5 miles) down: the deepest continental rift on Earth. In geological terms, the rift is young and active - it widens about 2 centimeters per year. The fault zone is also seismically active: there are hot springs in the area and notable earthquakes every few years. Its age is estimated at 25-30 million years, making it one of the most ancient lakes in geological history. It is unique among large, high-latitude lakes in that its sediments have not been scoured by overriding continental ice sheets.
U.S. and Russian studies of sediment cores in the 1990s provide a detailed record of climatic variation over the past 250,000 years. Longer and deeper sediment cores are expected in the near future. If all the sediments were scoured from the lake, it would be approximately 9 km deep. The lake is completely surrounded by mountains, technically protected as a national park and contains 22 small islands, the largest - Olkhon - being 72 km long. The lake is fed by some 300 inflowing rivers - the six main ones being Selenga, the surce of some of Baikal's pollution, Chikoy, Khiloh, Uda, Barguzin and Upper Angara. The lake is drained through a single outlet, the Angara River. The extent of biodiversity present in Lake Baikal is equalled by few other lakes in the world. As many as 852 species and 233 varieties of algae and 1550 species and varieties of animals inhabit the lake; many of them are endemic species. The world-famous Baikal Seal Phoca sibirica - the only mammal living in the lake - is found throughout the whole area of the lake. Baikal is renowned for the unique clarity of its waters.
Muted protest about the establishment of a wood pulp and cellulose plant at the south end of the lake in 1957 initialized ecological awareness among educated Russians, though not among the Soviet bureaucracy. However, the plant still pours industrial effluent into Baikal's waters. The overall impacts of watershed pollution on Baikal and similar watersheds is studied annually by the Tahoe Baikal Institute, an exchange program between the U.S., Russian and Mongolian scientists and university graduate students started in 1989. Of note is an endemic subspecies of the omul fish Coregonus autumnalis migratorius, which is fished, smoked, and sold on all markets around the lake. For many travelers on the Trans-Siberian railway, purchasing smoked omul is one of the highlights on the long journey.
Created: 09th Apr 2006