The anthropogenic impact on Baikal has significantly
risen since the 1950s. Industrial and civil building has grown and spread, the
population has grown and new towns and settlements have arisen, new lands have been
ploughed up and more chemicals have been used in agriculture. Logging on rivers
increased, and the practice of floating timber in large rafts, or "cigars", over Baikal
was started. The stream of tourists has increased, and two pulp and paper plants have
been built, one right on its banks, the other not far from its shores; along the northern shore the
Baikal-Amur Mainline Railway has been laid; more boats plough the lake in summer and
more cars drive over it in winter.
Over these years measures have been taken aimed at preventing the threat of
pollution. The logging of timber on the rivers has been stopped, and the
transportation of timber over Baikal in the form of rafts has been reduced, many
industrial enterprises of the Buryat Republic (including the Selenginsk pulp and
carton plant) have been converted to closed cycle water systems, and
environmental education of the local population has been stepped up. However,
these measures are insufficient. There is still the threat of pollution.
Today the greatest threat of pollution to the lake is posed by two sources - the
town of Ulan-Ude and the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Plant (BPPP). Account must
also be taken of pollution of the lake by the industry of Priangarye (Irkutsk Oblast)
via the atmosphere. Here, I will only consider the threat of pollution by the BPPP,
as I will be dealing with the pollution entering the lake via the Selenga and the
atmosphere in subsequent brochures.
When the paper plants were being built at Baikal there was a dramatic public
outcry against their construction, motivated by the inevitable pollution of the
uniquely pure waters of the lake, inhabited by an unusual living world in which
many endemic species are found. The public protest was, however, to no avail. The
plants were built.
The question of whether or not the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Plant pollutes
Baikal's waters is still in the public's mind.
There is only one answer to that question - yes, it is polluting the lake. But
opinions are divided as to the extent of the pollution. Some say that the pollution is
already considerable, that already two-thirds of the lake has been polluted. Other
object, saying that the pollution is slight. Let us take a look at the question in more
The waste waters of the Plant go through four stages of treatment: complete
biological, chemical, mechanical and additional biological treatment. Nevertheless,
they are not entirely freed of harmful substances. After being diluted twenty times
they are discharged through a deep dispersing outlet 150 metres from the shore at
a depth of about 40 metres. What is the level of mineralization of the discharged
waters? High. Even the permissible standard for the total mineralization of the
waste waters of the plant exceeds the mineralization of Baikal's waters more than
six times, the permissible level for sulphates exceeds their content in Baikal's
water more than sixty times, and almost two hundred times for that of chlorides. In
such conditions it is senseless to deny or underestimate the pollution, and all the
more since periodically the permissible limits are exceeded for technological
reasons. Because of this variability of the composition of these waste waters
different estimates of their mineralization are found in literature. E.N.Tarasova and
A.I.Mesheryakova estimate the total mineralization of the waste waters at 460
mg/1, including 300 mg/l of sulphates, 73.9 mg/l of chlorides, and 45 mg/l organic
substances, while V.A.Grinenko, G.R.Krouse, Y.A.Fedorov estimate the total at
679 mg/l, with sulphates making up 324 mg/l.
Despite such contrasting differences in the mineralization of the waste waters
and Baikal's water itself, even at the point of discharge of the waste waters it is
very difficult to establish higher concentrations of harmful substances. Baikal's
waters disperse these substances, levelling out their concentrations. Nevertheless,
pollution in the waste water discharge area has been established.
In 1993, A.D.Esikov, V.A.Bobrov and others (Russia) published the results of
monitoring of Baikal's water mass over the last ten years in the journal "Vodniye
resursy" (Russia). Water samples were taken along line sections 20 km apart. On
each section they were taken at depths of 0, 5, 25, 50, 100, 200, 500, 800, 1000,
1200, 1300 and 1400 metres. The samples were analysed for light (C12) and
heavy (C 13) isotopes of carbon. The lowest level of C 13 was found to be typical
of Central Baikal, and higher levels typical of the waters of North and South
Baikal. At depths the water has a higher C12 content, which can be put down to
the undercurrent of underground waters beneath the mass of water of the lake.
River waters have a higher level of C12, and similar water is discharged into the
lake from the Baikalsk and Selinginsk plants. Despite all this, the concentration of
the heavy isotope is rising in Baikal's waters. Over the years 1978 - 1986 the
concentration of C 13 rose by 2- 3 promilli, and from 1986- 1988 by another 1.5 -
2 promilli (...a thousandth part). The increase in the weight of carbon in Baikal's
waters the authors of the article put down to anthropogenic pollution of the lake,
although they do not define the source of the heavy isotope.
The same authors give the pattern of distribution of the light (016) and heavy
(018) isotopes of oxygen in the water mass. The surface and deep waters have a
higher level of the heavy isotope. In the surface layer this is accounted for by
evaporation, and in the bottom layer by the undercurrent of ground waters. The
waters of the rivers and waste waters of the plants are close to Baikal's water in
their oxygen isotope content.
Also in 1993, V.A.Grinenko (Russia), H.R.Krouse (Canada), and Y.A.Fedorov
(Russia) published the results of mass spectrometric analysis of isotopes of sulphur
in the surface waters of Baikal in the journal "Geokhimiya" (Russia). 25 samples
were analysed in all. The ratio of sulphur isotopes, light 32 and heavy 34, in
Baikal's waters varies from +7.6 to +23.9 promilli, on average +12.2. The coastal
waters characteristically have a higher ratio than waters of the central part of the
lake. They have a higher heavy isotope content. This is due to the fact that coastal
waters are replenished by underground water or waters, forming as a result of the
dissolving of salt-bearing deposits.
The sulphur isotopes of the BPPP waste waters are differently distributed. In
these the isotope ratio varies from +5.5 to +6.4 promilli, on average +5.9. This is
half as much as the average isotope ratio in Baikal's water. The plant's waste
waters have a higher light isotope content. And the light isotope is higher in the
zone immediately around the point of discharge. Here, the isotope ratios are the
following: +3.3, +3.9,+4.1 and +5.6 promilli. A jet of pollution in Baikal's waters
has been determined according to sulphur isotope ratios. It stretches from the
mouth of the river Bolshaya Osinovka in an easterly direction to a distance of 15
kilometres. It is 3 to 4 km. wide and has an area of 45 - 60 square kilometres.
The question of the degree of pollution of Baikal by the waste waters of the
BPPP was specially studied by K.K.Votintsev. Over 15 years of the Plant's
operation 800 thousand tons of mineral salts, mainly sulphates and chlorides of
sodium, have been discharged into Baikal in its waste waters. Bearing in mind the
volume of water in the lake, 23 thousand cubic kilometres, the discharged salts
evenly distributed over the entire volume would raise the mineralization of the
waters by only 0.0035 mg/l. And such a rise makes no virtual change in the
water's quality. However, the discharged salts are unevenly distributed. It is
mainly South Baikal that is being polluted in the area of discharge of the BPPP
waste waters. Votintsev continues: "Despite such an optimistic conclusion, there is
no doubt that Baikal's waters are being polluted, and this is impermissible. Since
we do not know when, and with what concentrations of substances discharged
with industrial waste waters, the lake will not be able to return to its natural
condition, the danger of such a possibility for Baikal is real and very great."
At the present, seemingly insignificant, stage of pollution of the lake we
already encounter examples of the impact of pollutants on its plant and animal life.
Highly toxic organic substances have been found in significant amounts in plants,
zooplankton and the fat of nerpa. All this I would like to consider in later
publications. Here, however, I would point out that pollution is not only coming
from the BPPP. In the fat of nerpa, for example, organochlorine pesticides (DDT)
have been found. Pesticides from agricultural lands are brought to Baikal with river
waters. And although their content in Baikal's water is very low, they accumulate
in nerpa fat and are passed on to the young with the mother's milk. The Baikal
nerpa is not contaminated to the same extent with DDT as, for example, the seals
of the Baltic. The amount of DDT in its fat is small. However, the very fact of
contamination is disturbing.
Baikal is becoming polluted. Pollutants are having an impact on its plant and
animal life and lowering the quality of Baikal water. The awareness of this has led
us to the conclusion that it is essential to convert the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper
Plant. Today the search is on to find ways for this conversion...
about pollution of Baikal Lake