The global economic downturn has caused a large paper and pulp mill on Lake Baikal in Russia to halt operation.
Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill started running in 1966. For 43 years, despite the efforts of environmentalists, it dumped enormous quantities of toxin-laced wastewater into the pristine lake.
Pacific Environment states the Communist government-backed mill had been ‘dumping over 100,000 cubic meters of polluted wastewater into Lake Baikal each day since its construction in 1966.’ Some of the pollutants were sulfates, phenols, dioxin, and chlorides.
In 1990 a Time article noted that there wasn’t documentation of all the damage that was being done to the aquatic life due to the mill’s toxic discharges: “Only a couple of years after these events, a Komsomol (communist worker) expedition brought back photographs showing the massive destruction of Baikal’s fish and plankton caused by toxic wastes. No accidental discharges had been logged. As always, everything was fine on paper”. The amount of toxins in the effluent was estimated by some scientists to be multiple times higher than what had been established by the government as acceptable: “Two years later, a commission of the Siberian Division of the Academy of Sciences concluded that discharges of pollutants from the mill exceeded those projected by 10 to 200-500 percent.”
At 395 miles long and 49 miles wide, Baikal is said to contain 20% of the Earth’s freshwater supply. It is also home to 1500-1600 endemic animal species, meaning they live only in that area. Perhaps there are so many endemic creatures because besides being the deepest and largest freshwater lake by volume, it is also the oldest at 25 million years of age.
It is home to the nerpa, an extremely rare freshwater seal. One of the most important fishes is the Omul, which is a protein staple for many Russian people. Since the mill has shut down the foul rotting-cabbage stench in the air has been reduced greatly, and the outlook for tourism and its financial benefits are much greater. It is unlikely it will resume operation due to insurmountable debt.
look at these panoramas.
Image Credit: Baikal Wiki, Public Domain and Gallery from the Russian News and Information Agency