New hydroelectric facilities in Mongolia may harm Lake Baikal

April 3, 2015 Interfax, Interfax
The construction of hydroelectric facilities in Mongolia may harm Lake Baikal, in the opinion of a commission of the Russian Security Council.

The construction of hydroelectric facilities in Mongolia may harm Lake Baikal, in the opinion of a commission of the Russian Security Council.

"Complicated hydrological conditions in the Baikal region have negatively impacted and significantly reduced water levels in Lake Baikal," a source in the Russian Security Council press service told Interfax on Friday, after a meeting of the Security Council's Environmental Security Interdepartmental Commission.

"The prospective construction of the Shuren hydropower plant and other hydroelectric facilities in the River Selenga and its tributaries in the Mongolian People's Republic may enhance the negative impact from the low water season on Lake Baikal and general environmental conditions," the source said.

The commission looked into Baikal environmental security threats linked to the ongoing contamination of the air, surface waters and bottom sediments with toxic chemicals and bio-agents, especially in the area of the shutdown Baikal Paper and Pulp Factory, he said.

"The absence of sewage and wastewater treatment systems in many populated areas jeopardizes the eco-system of the lake. Most existing wastewater treatment facilities are based on old technologies, in which many waste cleaning stages are missing," the source continued.

The commission has drawn up recommendations for the Russian government, the Russian Academy of Sciences and the authorities of Buryatia, the Irkutsk region and the Transbaikal territory and urged them to take additional measures towards the environmental security of the Baikal nature area and conservation of the lake as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Russian Natural Resources and Ecology Minister Alexander Donskoy said on April 2 that water levels in Lake Baikal might begin to restore in the middle of April. "We are hopeful, considering weather conditions and other factors," the minister said.

As of April 2, water levels in Lake Baikal had fallen nine centimeters below the critical mark.

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