June 30, 2010. Paris. Greenpeace and WWF call on UNESCO to help protect Lake Baikal.

At the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris Coalition of Russian NGOs "For Baikal!" has handed in an Appeal singed by over 125,000 people from all over the world to protect Lake Baikal in Siberia.

Lake Baikal is No Small Change to Throw Away

The Russian Government maintaining its close ties with oligarchs is again treating the unique lake of Baikal like some small change. Putin's decision to re-start the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill obstructs the environment-safe economic development of the town of Baikalsk and the whole Baikal region. The governmental decree, Prime Minister Putin signed on 13 January 2010, permitted the mill to discharge its wastewater into the cleanest lake on the face of the Earth, which is a violation of both Russian laws and an indicator of Russia's unwillingness to deliver on its international obligations to keep intact Lake Baikal – a priceless heritage of the whole humankind protected by UNESCO. This international body must address the Russian Government with a demand to stop pollution of Lake Baikal. In the past, our joint efforts with lots of people and organizations around the globe helped prevent construction of an oil pipeline on the shores of Lake Baikal. After a public campaign against the pipeline Vladimir Putin said: "If there is even a minor share of possibility that Lake Baikal may be contaminated, it is a must for us to not just minimize, but to totally eradicate such a threat".

To: Mrs. Irina Bokova
Director General

Dear Mrs. Bokova!

We hereby want to express our deepest concern regarding the Russian Government’s Decree No.1 of 13 January 2010 “On introduction of amendments into the List of activities prohibited in the Central Ecological Zone of the Baikal Natural Area”. This Decree has officially permitted the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill and other industrial enterprises to dump toxic wastewaters into Lake Baikal with no legally enforced restrictions, as well as store, process, dispose of and incinerate all kinds of waste including most hazardous.

Lake Baikal is a truly unique natural phenomenon on our planet from the point of view of biological diversity and the world’s biggest stock of freshwater.

In 1996 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee gave Lake Baikal the status of World Heritage property based on all four natural uniqueness criteria applied to such nominations.

The decision to re-start the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill is a serious threat and may cause irreversible damage to the greatest lake of the world. It has sparked broad public protests both within Russia and outside the country.

Dear Mrs. Bokova, I am writing this to appeal to you as a head of a very respected international organization to make everything possible to save this unique natural site that enjoys the World Heritage status.

I am deeply convinced that there are possibilities to cancel the above mentioned Decree of the Russian Government, as well as opportunities to create favorable conditions for development of environmentally safe alternative industries and tourism in the Baikalsk area.

In the past, only thanks to a proactive position of UNESCO, such unique cultural sites as the Giza Pyramids and Archeological Site of Delphi were saved for future generations. Today Lake Baikal urgently needs UNESCO’s help! Natural heritage is no less valuable for humankind than cultural and if today we fail to stop this ecologically, socially and strategically unreasonable process, tomorrow we shall lose one of the pearls of the World Nature.

Very truly yours,