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Scientist: World’s deepest Lake Baikal faces shallowing

June 24, 2015, 17:51 UTC+3 ULAN-UDE
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
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Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

© ITAR-TASS/Vladimir Smirnov

ULAN-UDE, June 24. /TASS/. A sharp shrinking of world’s deepest Lake Baikal that has been in place since the start of the year, may be repeated, the acting director of the Baikal Institute for Management of Natural Resources said on Wednesday.

"Nobody is taking risks any longer to make concrete forecasts as to what expects Baikal in the next few years, but it is evident that its wellbeing is at risk," Yendon Garmayev told TASS.

"An average air temperature here has increased by two degrees. We see less precipitation," he said, noting that this makes water supply extremely insufficient. Water inflow from the Selenga River, that accounts for almost half of yearly surface water flows in the lake, has decreased by 1.2 cubic kilometers in the past 30 years, he said, noting that it was a sizable figure for an average annual amount of 29.2 cubic kilometers.

Lake Baikal in south-east Siberia contains 20% of all fresh running water on the planet. Last year, it received only 65% of water norm. "Against the background of such changes, human interference and artificial lowering or raising Baikal’s water level may very negatively tell on its ecosystem," Germayev said.

According to the Ministry for Natural Resources of the Siberian republic of Buryatia, the lowest in the past few years mark of 455.86 meters was registered at the end of April, after which Baikal restored the earlier set minimum mark of 456 meters on June 5.

Located on an area comparable with that of the Netherlands, Lake Baikal 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 metres. 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 on the list of the world’s largest fresh-water lakes facing the biggest threat of deterioration.

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