A Victory for Lake Baikal's Future
Lake Baikal, the "pearl of Siberia", is the world's deepest lake. Because of its age and isolated location in Siberia, it contains unusual collections of freshwater flora and fauna and 1,700 plant and animal species. It has also been the subject of great controversy as activists fought to reroute a petroleum pipeline from its shore and then fought to relocate a nuclear enrichment centre. Indeed, Marina Rikhvanova, head of the Baikal Environmental Wave, the leading environmental group, won the distinguished Goldman Environmental Prize this year for her efforts.
Another victory has been won in the battle to clean up the lake. After years of campaigning, a pulp and paper factory which pumped toxic waste into the lake has now been shut down. Built in 1966, the plant's run off has dumped thousands of tons of dioxin and other harmful effluents into the lake. In September the mill changed to a "closed-water" system that cut discharge. The company claims that has caused the closure and lay-off of 1,400 employees.
Activists are celebrating because, as Marina Rikhvanova, head of Baikal Environmental Wave said: "Waste from this factory poisoned and caused genetic mutations in many of Baikal's endemics - the hundreds of types of fauna and flora that are unique to this place. Now the lake can begin to heal itself."
The Baikal Paper and Pulp Plant is controlled by the billionaire Oleg Deripaska. He has been notorious in London lately because his yacht (pictured), parties, house in Corfu and fabulous lifestyle have been the subject of a political scandal. GuardianMore on Lake BaikalGoldman Environmental Prize WinnerThe Wave on the Net