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ULAN UDE, March 17. /TASS/. Water level in Lake Baikal has dropped to its decade’s minimum of 455.94 meters, or by six centimeters below the critical level fixed by a governmental resolution of 2001, the ministry of natural resources of Russia’s Republic of Buryatia said on Tuesday.
Water level lowering in Lake Baikal began last autumn mostly due to insufficient rains. The water level lowering caused water intake problems in the cities of Angarsk, Usolye-Sibirskoye, Cheremkhovo. In this connection, the Russian government on February 4 allowed to bring down the water level in Lake Baikal below the previously fixed critical mark (456 meters). According to various estimates, water resources in Lake Baikal are to be replenished in late April-early June when ice is gone. Due to the low water level, the Republic of Buryatia located along the eastern shores of Baikal imposed a high alert regime.
Lake Baikal in south-east Siberia, the deepest lake in the world (1,700 m), contains 20% of all fresh running water on the planet. Located on an area comparable with that of the Netherlands, it is the biggest reservoir of fresh-water on the Earth. Water level in Baikal is regulated by the Irkutsk hydropower plant on the River Angara outflowing from Lake Baikal. Experts say the lake’s shallowing may carry such threats as losses in productive efficiency of the hydropower plant, the lake’s ecosystem imbalance and threats to fish spawning areas, subsoil water level lowering in coastal areas fraught with peat bog fires.
Since 1962, Baikal’s water level dropped below the critical mark more than ten times. Thus, in 1982, water level sank to 455.27 meters. But the subject of Baikal’s possible shallowing was seriously raised only in 2001. A World Lakes Conference in Japan’s Otsu put Lake Baikal, along with Lake Okeechobee in the United States (with a depth of three meters), Lake Balaton in Hungary (with a depth of 12 meters) and the Aral Sea located at the border of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan (up 50 metres deep), on the list of the world’s largest fresh-water lakes facing the biggest threat of deterioration.