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Researcher highlights critical situation with water level in Lake Baikal

January 15, 2015, 17:33 UTC+3 ULAN-UDE
Due to reckless activity of the water management companies working in the Irkutsk region, the water level in the lake has dropped to 456.09 meters and is the lowest over a period of almost 60 years
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Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

© ITAR-TASS/Yevgeny Yepanchintsev

ULAN-UDE, January 15. /TASS/. Efforts to avoid the lowering of water level in the world’s largest natural freshwater reservoir, Lake Baikal, will unlikely produce any more results and the situation is critical, Dr. Yendon Garmayev, the director of the Baikal Institute for Natural Resource Management told TASS on Thursday.

“There’s no inflow of water into the lake in the wintertime and it will begin only with the melting of snow in the catchment area but this will take place in April at the earliest,” Dr. Garmayev said.

“At the moment, however, it’ll be impossible to prevent a lowering of the lake’s water level and the regulations (for the maintenance of water levels — TASS) specified by the government back in 2001 will be violated in one way or another,” he said .

As the minimum admissible water level in the lake, the government document specified the 456-meter mark under the Pacific system of elevations.

In the meantime, the water level in the Baikal has dropped to 456.09 meters and is the lowest over a period of almost 60 years.

As the cause of this ‘disastrous shallowing’, researchers point to reckless activity of the water management companies working in the Irkutsk region. For instance, the regional power utility, Irkutskenergo, pumped excessive amounts of water out of the lake in the spring and summer of 2014.

The extremely arid summer weather in 2014 and amassed felling of forests along the banks of the Selenga, the Baikal’s main tributary river, topped the list of other substantial cause behind the current knotty situation.

“Last season, the inflow of water from the Selenga into the Baikal stood at only 63% of the normal annual influx and that particular river accounts for more than a half of the influx of surface waters,” Dr. Garmayev said.

“All of these factors taken together add up into the situation we can see today,” he noted.

The saddening aspect of the story is that the lowering of the water level below the 456 meters mark will affect the Baikal’s biological systems, including the birds and fish inhabiting the small shallow bays along the perimeter of the lake, he said.

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