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New tourist routes, water museum, other projects planned for Baikal Lake

September 09, 2012, 23:16 UTC+3

Baikal preservation and cleaning programs were launched three years ago, and a number of new projects will start soon

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MOSCOW, September 9 (Itar-Tass) —— The world marks the Day of Lake Baikal on Sunday. Baikal is the deepest and oldest freshwater pond on the planet. Its age is estimated at more than 25 million years. The reservoir contains 20% of the Earth freshwater reserves.

Forty photographs of the Lake Baikal taken in various times of the day and in various seasons were put on display in Moscow, Samara, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don and St. Petersburg. The photo show opened in Irkutsk on Sunday.

Baikal preservation and cleaning programs were launched three years ago, and a number of new projects will start soon, Baikal project supervisor of the UN Development Program Sergei Kudelya told Itar-Tass.

“We celebrate today, but we should speak both about our achievements and problems. The UN program, “Every Drop Matters,” started three years ago, and about 20 projects gained support within its framework. These are small-scale projects, but they are helpful for the lake and surrounding territories,” Kudelya said. “Litter is cleared and tourist routes are created, including for people with disabilities. There are successful educational projects, too, such as the photo show and games and books for schoolchildren.”

“Forty-five kilometers of the Baikal shore have been cleared of litter within a year. More than 40 tons of solid household waste were collected and landfilled. More than 10,000 people – local residents, tourists and volunteers – took part in the projects, and two international volunteer camps were built,” he said. “Approximately $500,000 were assigned for Baikal projects in 2010-2011, and about $150,000 in 2012. Total investments will exceed $1 billion soon.”

The money will be spent on current and new projects. New tourist routes will be created in Baikal within years to attract Russian and foreign visitors. The Water Museum will open on the premises of the Buryatia National Museum. It will be an interactive facility. Besides, Baikal will offer eco-markets selling local farm produce.

Baikal problems are rooted “in nationwide ecological difficulties, such as industrial pollution, the paper and pulp mill, which has long become a subject of heated disputes, and the dirty Selenga River, the biggest tributary of Baikal. Both governmental agencies and Russian and foreign international non-governmental organizations, among them the UNESCO, are working to solve them,” Kudelya said.

The federal program, “Protection of the Lake Baikal and Socioeconomic Development of the Baikal Nature Territory in 2012-2020,” may help improve the lake status. The investments will reach 58.158 billion rubles, including 48.381 billion rubles from the federal budget. The latter will assign 33.513 billion rubles for capital investments, 454.1`million rubles for research, and 14.404 for other needs. The main goal of the program is to protect the lake and surroundings from negative man-made and natural impacts.

“Hopefully, these small and big projects will be helpful for the lake – our pride and legacy. We must protect it together,” Kudelya concluded.

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