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Russian government bans paper and pulp production at Baikal shore

March 07, 2015, 9:47 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The biggest plant of the kind, which was working at lake, was closed in December, 2013

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© ITAR-TASS/Ekaterina Shtukina

MOSCOW, 7 March. /TASS/. Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an order banning production of paper and pulp in the central ecology zone of the Baikal nature reserve, the government’s site reported on Saturday.

The biggest plant of the kind, which was working at Baikal, was closed in December, 2013.

The government’s order also bans construction in the Baikal nature territory of new coal boiler houses (if existing boiler houses may be modernised).

The Baikal nature territory has three ecology zones: central, buffer and the atmosphere ecology zone. The central zone unites the lake and its islands and the shore as well as specially protected nature territories.

Lake Baikal in south-east Siberia, the deepest lake in the world at 1,700 m, contains 20% of all fresh running water on the planet, making it the single largest reservoir. The lake contains an outstanding variety of endemic flora and fauna, of exceptional value to evolutionary science. It is also surrounded by a system of protected areas that have high scenic and other natural values. The basin supports a variety of plant and animal species, a number being endemic; the most notable of which is the Baikal seal, a uniquely freshwater species. The great variety of plants in the basin is determined by its climatic asymmetry: the western part is occupied by light coniferous forests and mountain steppes; in the eastern part pine forests predominate; and the north is covered by deciduous forests. The formation of the geological structures in the basin took place during the Palaeozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras and there are a number of significant geological features. Various tectonic forces are still ongoing, as evidenced in recent thermal vents in the depths of the lake.

The lake itself is the centerpiece of the site and its largely unseen underwater features are the core of its value to both science and conservation. Baikal is one of the most biodiverse lakes on Earth, with 1,340 species of animal (745 endemic) and 570 species of plant (150 endemic). In the forests surrounding the lake there are an additional 10 threatened species along with the full complement of typical boreal species. The evolution of aquatic life that has taken place over this long period has resulted in an exceptionally unique and endemic fauna and flora. As the 'Galapagos of Russia', the lake is of exceptional value to evolutionary science.

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