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Water level in world's deepest Lake Baikal drops to critical mark

February 19, 2015, 20:11 UTC+3 MOSCOW
The giant lake has been shrinking since last autumn, when for the first time in 60 years its levels dropped almost to a critical mark of about 40 centimeters within a year’s time
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© ITAR-TASS/Maxim Kashirin

MOSCOW, February 19./TASS/. The water level in Lake Baikal in Russia’s Siberia has dropped to a minimum mark of 456 meters, the head of the Federal Agency for Water Resources, Marina Seliverstova, told an emergency session on Thursday.

To preserve the ecosystem of the unique lake, the Russian government established the minimum and maximum water levels of 456 and 457 meters. Hydropower stations on Angara River ensure these levels, but unsufficient precipitations in 2014 resulted in the lack of water, threatening water supply for the city of Angarsk.

On Wednesday, the natural resources ministry of Russia’s republic of Buryatia said 875 residents in 19 settlements in Buryatia complained of water supply shortages because of the shrinking Baikal, citing the results of checks of water supply facilities conducted on January 26-February 12. Ten days before, 11 affected settlements were mentioned in reports.

The giant lake has been shrinking since last autumn, when for the first time in 60 years its levels dropped almost to a critical mark of about 40 centimeters within a year’s time.

Since February 4, an emergency mode is in place in the republic. The local authorities have devised a plan of action to supply the population with drinking water.

Situated in south-east Siberia, the 3.15-million-ha Lake Baikal is the oldest and deepest lake in the world.

It contains 20% of the world's total unfrozen freshwater reserve. 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, according to UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

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