«Baikal is amazing, and it’s not for nothing that the Siberians call it not the lake, but the sea. The water is unusually transparent: it can be seen through as though it was the air; its color is soft turquoise, pleasant to the eye. The shores are mountainous, covered with forests; around it the impenetrable, lightless wild. It abounds bears, sables, wild goats and all sorts of wild things …»
Anton P. Chekhov
«Nature does not tolerate inaccuracies and does not forgive mistakes.»
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Baikal is the largest and deepest lake on the planet, which contains 1/5 of the surface freshwater reserves or 1/2 of the available drinking water on Earth. According to approximate estimates of geologists, the age of this lake is more than 30 million years, but, despite this fact, it is unusually clean and transparent. “Blue Siberian Eye”, “The Diamond of the Planet”, “Sacred Sea”… These are not all the epithets that can be heard in relation to the lake by tourists who come here every year from afar to admire this wonder of nature.
Lake Baikal has a value that people have not yet been able to fully unveil and understand. It is one of the few basins from which one can drink water without the need to filter it. Baikal is the property of all humankind and is under special protection by the UN. About 2,600 aquatic species inhabit it, half of which are indigenous, that is, they can be found only there. And, quite unusually, the composition of the lake water is almost the same as that of distilled water!
Nowadays Baikal is on the verge of an ecological catastrophe due to excessive human activity. The lake is constantly polluted by household and industrial effluents, wastes of metallurgical and construction enterprises, toxic emissions into the atmosphere and the fact that thousands of tourists come to see it every year. Oil products, agrochemicals and various agricultural fertilizers are also being dispensed into the lake. However, sewage treatment plants are able to cope with only 35% of toxins from the total amount.
The ecological problems of Baikal are a kind of litmus paper, which can be used to determine how we are treating nature. Unfortunately, it has long been sacrificed to industrial progress. But what can be done to restore the unique flora and fauna of the “pearl of Siberia”, purify its waters and restore the fantastic frozen landscapes? It is necessary to take urgent real measures to save the lake. We should start with ourselves – everyone can make their own contribution.
We should also try to explain to the younger generation about the individual responsibility. Each one of us, within our capacity, should take care of the environment or at least not harm it. Restoring the correct ecological processes in Lake Baikal and maintaining them will help gain control over the working processes of the sewage treatment plant, stop the construction of new tourist bases and demolish the already illegally constructed ones.
Locals and tourists should as soon as possible abandon the use of phosphate-containing detergents and cleaning products, minimize domestic sewage, stop catching rare fish species and kill endangered animals. All plants on the territory of the Baikal region must be managed with care: not to create new paths, not to pick flowers, not to cut down trees and break shrubs. All brought-along food packages and bags must be taken back immediately after use.