Known as the "Galapagos of Russia," Lake Baikal is located in southern Siberia near the Russian-Mongolian border. The oldest and deepest lake in the world, Baikal reaches a depth of 1,700 meters and contains 20% of the world's unfrozen freshwater reserve. Lake Baikal is a unique ecosystem that is home to more than 1,700 species of endemic plants and animals. Surrounded by steep mountains and dense forests, the lake has an estimated age of 25-30 million years, making it one of the most ancient lakes in geological history.
Over the past century, Lake Baikal has faced major threats from development. On the southern end of the lake, the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill polluted Baikal for more than 40 years. In 2006, the lake was spared certain disaster from oil spill when the Siberia-Pacific Pipeline was rerouted outside of the lake's watershed. Today, development of a planned zinc and lead mine and construction of an International Uranium Enrichment Center in the town of Angarsk threaten the region. Another elusive threat to Baikal comes from irresponsible gold mining in the portion of the lake's watershed located in Mongolia.
Thankfully, a vibrant network of grassroots activists and environmental organizations is working to protect Lake Baikal from these threats and to promote alternatives for the region's development. One of our partners, Marina Rikhvanova, was awarded the 2008 Goldman Environmental Prize for her remarkable achievements in the Siberia-Pacific Pipeline campaign. Click here to learn more about the specific projects we support in the Lake Baikal region.