TED Case Studies

Lake Bikal Pollution

          CASE NUMBER:         232 
          CASE MNEMONIC:      BAIKAL
          CASE NAME:          Baikal Wood Pulp and Pollution


1.   The Issue

     Lake Baikal is the world's oldest and deepest lake.  It lies
in southern Siberia, its watershed extending over the Mongolian
border.  The lake is revered by the Russian people as a source of
beauty and power.  Preservation of the lake, however, has
recently come to international attention.  The Paper-and-Pulp
Mill at Baikalsk has polluted the surrounding region and
threatens the pristine conditions that have existed for
centuries.  The paper mill produces bleached cellulose that is
used in clothing manufacture.  The process, however, produces
chemicals and effluent that threaten the more than 1,500 species
unique to the lake.  In addition, the economic and political
difficulties currently facing Russia pose their own threat - that
efforts to preserve the lake may not be instituted due to lack of
funding or inability to form a consensus.  The success of Lake
Baikal has been viewed as critical to other environmental efforts
throughout the world.

2.   Description

     Lake Baikal, the Pearl of Siberia or the Sacred Sea, is
referred to as "Ye glorious sea, ye sacred Baikal" in an old
Siberian song.  The lake is indeed old:  clay samples taken in
1990 show that Lake Baikal is at least 30 million years old,
making it the world's oldest known lake.(1)  Foreigners have
referred to the lake as the "Australia of fresh waters", largely
due to its tremendous size.(2)  Lake Baikal is located 1000
kilometers inland and extends almost 700 kilometers in length. 
(The lake is 395 miles long and 80 miles wide.)  Its shoreline
extends 1,245 miles.  Lake Baikal measures 1,637 meters in depth
at its deepest, (over one mile) and holds 23,000 cubic kilometers
of water.

     Although Lake Baikal has 336 tributaries, most are minor. 
The lake has only one major inlet and one major outlet to carry
most of its water.  The inlet is the heavily-polluted Selenga
River which flows in from northern Mongolia.  It brings in almost
one-half of Baikal's water.  The outlet is the Angara, which
flows west and powers the hydroelectric turbines in Irkutsk. 
Both lie in the southern third of the lake.

     Further complicating the situation, Lake Baikal is a
self-contained aquatic system; it is an isolated ecosystem, home
to more than 1,500 endemic species found no where else on earth. 
Among these unique flora and fauna are the Baikal seal (believed
to be a relative of the Arctic ringed seal, 3,220 kilometers
away), and the omul, a fish considered to be a delicacy in the
region.  Some of the plants and animals can be dated to
prehistoric times.  As a result, Baikal is a huge natural

     Lake Baikal resides on one of the two deepest land
depressions on Earth.  (The other is the Marianas Trench in the
Pacific.)  The rift is over nine kilometers in depth.  Little is
understood about this huge fault zone.  Hydrothermic vents below
the surface cause heavy tectonic activity, with the result of
minor earthquakes every few hours.  Three large plates meet in
this rift, which seven-kilometer-deep sediment shows to be more
than 25 million years old.  Baikal is the oldest, largest, and
most unique (species-wise) lake in the world.(3)

     Plans for the paper mill at Baikalsk began in 1954.  The
public was informed in 1957;  protests were held, and ignored. 
The plant was built on the belief that heating Baikal's
mineral-free waters, then spraying them over the pulp of the
Siberian pines, would produce a "super" cellulose that could be
used to make durable jet tires for Soviet Air Force planes.  This
was done during the Cold War under Nikita Khrushchev on the
intelligence report that the U.S. was using the same procedure in
Foley, Florida.(4)  (In time, synthetics were found to be more
conducive to tire manufacture.)  The plant, however, continues to
produce, polluting 200 square kilometers of the lake.  This
pollution affects the bottom-dwellers of the lake as well, for
Lake Baikal's waters are thoroughly mixed, with oxygen found even
at the lowest depths.  In addition, the Angara carries some of
this pollution westward.

     Baikalsk releases chlorinated organics from the waste
chemicals involved in pulp bleaching.  These are of particular
concern since they take centuries to biodegrade.  Air pollution
surrounding Baikalsk is one of the worst in Russia.  The larch
and pine forests in the area also exhibit degradation effects
from the pollution.  Furthermore, disabilities in the population
are rising, ostensibly a result of the pollution.  DDT levels are
higher here, probably from continued use of the toxin by China. 
Many other chemical levels show similarities to the U.S. Great
Lakes.  This is particularly worrisome, as the food web for Lake
Baikal closely mirrors that of the Great Lakes.  While Baikal
supports 1,500+ endemic species, however, Lake Superior, by
contrast, has only four.  This may be a result of age, however;
while Lake Baikal is roughly 30 million years old, Lake Superior
is only 10,000 years old.  Having been shown the detrimental
effects of such pollution in the Great Lakes, it will be
necessary to closely monitor the Baikal seals for possible health

     Pollution also occurs from the Selenga River.  This
tributary is the main inlet to Baikal, contributing almost
one-half of Baikal's water inflow.  Sediment and waste from three
large Mongolian cities, as well as human and industrial wastes
are carried by the Selenga.  Thus far, the most noticeable effect
has been decreased spawning rates for the omul, an endemic fish
considered a delicacy.  The coal-burning plants in Slyudyanka,
furthermore, contribute to acid rain, which in turn further
pollution in the lake.(6)

     In April 1987, the Soviet government issued a decree to
protect Lake Baikal.  Shore logging would cease.  The industrial
plants were to be converted by 1993 to correct for the
environmental damage that had been done.  Mikhail Grachev, a
molecular biologist, was appointed the director of the Institute
for Limnology at Irkutsk in 1986, (the Siberian branch of the
Soviet Academy of Sciences) and was directed to study Lake
Baikal.  In 1988 the Center for the Great Lakes Studies entered
into a joint project with the Institute of Limnology.  An
international ecological center was instituted at Baikal in 1990. 
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization) is considering classifying Lake Baikal as a natural
treasure of the world, which would then give it international

     Initially, the Soviet government intended to build a
pipeline to carry the industrial waste to the Irkut River, which
is a tributary of the Angara River flowing out of Lake Baikal. 
The area, however, has proven prone to slides.  In addition to
the possibility of losing the pipeline, the Soviet people
initiated a strong grass-roots movement to protest the 'pollution
elsewhere' idea, rather than change.  Part of the difficulty lies
in the fact that the Soviet Union, and now Russia, is unequipped
to fund the project or to organize an international contingent to
do so.  Over 100 enterprises operate along the shores of Lake
Baikal, most without purification facilities.  More than 700
agricultural facilities leave behind organic chemicals, fuel oil,
and solar oil.  The enterprises dump zinc, mercury, tungsten, and
other chemicals and metals by the millions of tons into the
lake.(7)  Baikal lags far behind the conversion schedule.

     Lake Baikal is currently a test area to determine the extent
of the spread of manmade pollutants.  Considering the levels of
pollution, Lake Baikal remains in fairly pristine condition. 
This is largely the result of its tremendous size.  Its size,
however, is what led to the pollution in the first place.  For
years, many Soviet officials believed that factories would not
harm the lake; its size would disperse the chemicals harmlessly.8 
Now, however, it has been shown that pollution at any level is

     The current domestic debate, however, rages between those
anxious to continue bleached cellulose production at Baikalsk
(which provides 3,500 jobs), and those concerned with the
environment.  Environmentalists would prefer to let Lake Baikal
sit idle, providing instead campsites, health resorts, and
tourism.  These, too, bring pollution, but probably not pollution
as detrimental as the chemical effluent from the Paper-and-Pulp

     Baikal has become a symbol of environmental dangers.  The
similarities of Lake Baikal to other bodies of water indicate
these dangers and the urgency of conservation.  The Great Lakes,
although now on a rebound, were in terrible condition.  Lake
Baikal has also been compared to Lake Tanganyika, which houses no
life.  International participation and funding, however, appear
crucial to salvaging the Siberian Pearl.

3.   Related Cases

     ARAL case
     CASPIAN case
     BALLAST case
     PULP case

     Keyword Clusters         

     (1): Trade Product            = PULP
     (2): Domain                   = ASIA
     (3): Environmental Problem    = Pollution Sea [POLS]

4.   Draft Author:  Amy Van Allen

B.   LEGAL Cluster

5.   Discourse and Status: DISagreement and INPROGress

     Almost everyone agrees that Lake Baikal should be protected. 
Public activism and intervention is largely responsible for the
measures taken thus far.  Russia, however, is largely unable to
accept the consequences of its actions, with both an economy and
a political sector in disarray.  The international community will
likely shoulder most of the burden.

6.   Forum and Scope: RUSSIA and MANY

     There are many bilateral ties here, most involving joint
U.S.-Russian cooperation.  Bilateral agreements involving both
China (for their use of DDT) and Mongolia (for the pollution of
the inlet Selenga River) are also needed.  The possibility of
protection under UNESCO, however, which would proclaim Lake
Baikal an international treasure and guarantee it international
protection, lend an international scope to the issue.

7.   Decision Breadth: 1
     Currently, Lake Baikal concerns only Russia, despite the
fact that its watershed extends into Mongolia.  If adopted by
UNESCO, the entire international community would be responsible
for protecting the great lake.

8.   Legal Standing:  LAW

     The Russian decree called for conversion to environmentally
safe methods for the industrial enterprises in the area.  For the
most part, these have not yet been implemented.  Not much else
has been done to help the lake.


10.  Geography

          a. Continental Domain:  ASIA
          b. Geographic Site:  SIBERia
          c. Geographic Impact:  RUSSIA

11.  Sub-National Factors: YES

     The problem of Lake Baikal largely affects Siberia,
especially the people using the water from Lake Baikal and the

12.  Type of Habitat: COOL

     Siberia is mostly forest.  Timber logging is the primary
resource in this region.  Pollution is affecting the trees.  The
Baikal seals are also hunted for their skins and blubber.

IV.  TRADE Cluster

13.  Type of Measure: Regulatory Standard [REGSTD]

     Thus far, measures are being taken to reduce the amount of
effluent that reaches the lake.  Conversion to environmentally
safe methods of production are the primary standard here.

14.  Direct vs. Indirect Impacts: INDirect

     Reduction of logging has a direct impact on trade in the
region.  Less logging means fewer jobs and fewer products. 
Logging provides wood for furniture, homes, and paper.  In
addition, Baikalsk employs 3,500 people, with its production of
bleached cellulose for clothing the second highest in Russia. 
Closing the plant poses a serious employment problem.  On the
other hand, keeping the plant open fosters deforestation,
increased pollution, and further health hazards, as well as
species loss.

15.  Relation of Measure to Impact

     a.        Directly Related:  NO
     b.        Indirectly Related:  YES - TIMBER
     c.        Not Related:  NO
     d.        Process:  YES - Pollution Sea [POLS]

15.  Trade Product Identification: PULP

16.  Economic Data

17.  Degree of Competitive Impact: LOW

     These plants could be relocated to other parts of Siberia. 
More importantly, they could be converted and upgraded to reduce
the pollution impacts.  In general, this is a low impact concern,
although the costs to Russia at this time are quite high.

18.  Industry Sector:  WOOD

19.  Exporter and Importer: RUSSIA and MANY


20.  Environmental Problem Type: Pollution Sea [POLS]

21.  Species Information


     The endemic species of Baikal are largely not at risk of
extinction, largely due to the huge size of the lake and its
ability to regenerate its waters.  If the pollution continues
unabated, which is not foreseen, it may become more crucial.  At
particular risk are the Baikal seal and several species of
endemic fish found no where else in the world, including the omul
and the golumyanka.

22.  Impact and Effect: HIGh and Structural ][STRCT]

     Lake Baikal represents both resource concentration problems
of pollution and resource depletion problems of conserving both
the lake and its unique species.  As a result of the tremendous
number of endemic flora and fauna, the resultant impact of losing
Baikal is high.  Effects are largely structural, stemming from
the attempts to control pollution.

23.       Urgency and Lifetime: MEDium and 100s of years

24.  Substitutes: Biodegradable [BIODG]

     Synthetic substitutes for the cellulose for plane tires have
already been found.  Although the substitutes are superior to the
cellulose, production has not lessened.  Clothing manufacture has
substituted for tires.  The push at the moment is for reduction
of pollutants, largely through bio-degradable materials.

VI.  OTHER Factors

25.  Culture: NO

26.  Human Rights: NO

27.   Trans-Boundary Issues: YES

     Since the watershed for Baikal extends into Mongolia, and
Mongolian and Chinese waste have contributed to Lake Baikal's
pollution, this is a trans-boundary issue.

28.  Relevant Literature

Batalin, Alexander.  "Looking to Baikal for Help."  Soviet
     Life.  No. 3 (March 1990): 30-5.

-----.  "Together to the Bottom of Baikal."  Soviet Life.
     No. 2 (February 1991): 44-9.

Belt, Don.  "Russia's Lake Baikal: The World's Great Lake."
     National Geographic. Vol. 181, no. 6 (June 1992): 2-39.

Filipchenko, L.  "Turbid Waste Water Continues to Pollute
     the Unique Lake."  Current Digest of the Soviet Press.
     Vol. 41, no. 18 (31 May 1989): 28-9.

Grachev, Michael.  "Slow renewal of deep waters."  Nature.
     Vol. 349, no. 6311 (21 February 1991): 654-5.

Kuchlick, John R., et al.  "Organochlorines in the Water and
     Biota of Lake Baikal, Siberia."  Environmental Science
     and Technology.  Vol. 28, no. 1 (January 1994): 31-7.

Maddox, John.  "Ambitions for Lake Baikal."  Nature.  Vol.
     339, no. 6203 (12 January 1989): 111.

-----.  "Baikal centre takes step forward."  Nature.  Vol.
     341, no. 6242 (12 October 1989): 481.

Sutton, Christine.  "Plumbing the depths for cosmic rays."
     New Scientist.  Vol. 141, no. 1908 (15 January 1994):

Weiss, R.F., E.C. Carmack, and V.M. Koropalov.  "Deep water
     renewal and biological production in Lake Baikal."
     Nature.  Vol. 349, no. 6311 (21 February 1991) 665-9.

Yegorov, Alexander.  "The Lessons of Baikal."  Soviet Life.
     No. 2. (February 1989): 30-3.

Zubkov, Pyotr.  "Buryatia: A Republic on Lake Baikal."
     Soviet Life.  No. 3 (March 1988): 41-7.


1.   Alexander Batalin, "Together to the Bottom of Baikal,"
Soviet Life, no. 2 (February 1991): 44.

2.   Pyotr Zubkov, "Buryatia: A Republic on Lake Baikal," Soviet
Life, no. 3 (March 1988): 45.

3.   Don Belt, "Russia's Lake Baikal: The World's Great Lake,"
National Geographic, vol. 181, no. 6 (June 1992):17.

4.   Ibid., 8.

5.   Belt 20, 33, 36, 38 and John R. Kuchlick, et al.,
"Organochlorines in the Water and Biota of Lake Baikal, Siberia,"
Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 28, no. 1 (January
1994): 36.

6.   Belt 20 and 16.

7.   L. Filipchenko, "Turbid Waste Water Continues to Pollute the
Unique Lake," The Current Digest of the Soviet Press, vol. 41,
no. 18 (31 May 1989): 28.

8.   Zubkov 45.

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