Environmental protection of Baikal and laws

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The experience gained by the world community during the past decade shows that the “wilder” nature is the more it needs our protection. I mean that human interference in these areas of wildlife should be regulated by law.

Mere regulation is not enough. Laws are not the only thing we need. We should respect the environment; people have to obey the laws of wildlife management while visiting these special areas. About 90% of Baikal region territory consists of virgin nature and taiga. That’s why taiga should be the law here, and first of all, the law in everyday practice, customs, traditions, i.e. in hearts and minds of people. Environmental protection regulations and laws existed in Russia during tsarist and Soviet periods, but they were seldom directed at definite problems and territories. The transition period (middle and late 1980-s) had become one of the most effective periods for Baikal Region in terms of documentary and partially real protection. Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Council of Ministers of USSR had adopted a number of decrees on Baikal giving impulse to the environmental protection activity of the party and Soviet agencies on both sides of the lake. For example, in 1987 a joint Irkutsk and Buryat Soviet Republic party and economic meeting was organized to work out effective solutions of Baikal Region issues.

Creation of Transbaikalian and Zabaikalian National Parks and Baikal-Lena Reserve in 1986 were meaningful steps towards Baikal ecology protection. With the collapse of USSR in early 1990-s many positive ecological intentions have disappeared as well.

I’d like to draw your attention to some of the basic steps of Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the Council of Ministers of the USSR on “measures to ensure protection and conservation of Baikal basin in 1987-1995”, which also were not carried out or had minimal implementation:

• stop pulp production by Baikal Pulp and Paper Plant by 1995(!!!);

• build, restore and expand purification installations for cleaning the sewage in dozens of Baikal towns, railroad stations and villages as well as install and modernize purification installations for air emissions in many industrial enterprises (for instance, gas and dust handling facilities were installed by only about 29% of mills and plants of Buryatia);

• construct a number of storage facilities for organic fertilizers and toxic pesticides;

• organize navigation and freightage regulation across the lake, coastal purification facilities to treat water from shipspolluted with oil;

• since 1989 - reduce the transportation of oil-based products across Baikal to the minimum;

• stop towing logs by raft and organize logs freight by special ships (this requires building barges with 3 tons cargo capacity);

• prohibit wood cutting in coastal protection area;

• supply the forest fire-prevention service with special equipment and vehicles to minimize the damage caused by forest fires.

Many of the measures had not been carried out owing to different reasons and, first of all, to the collapse of the USSR and the following economic crisis. Nonetheless, new authorities of the new independent country kept on working out Baikal protection measures, which was also inspired by the government responsibility to the Russian nation and the world community.

On November 16, 1994 away State Duma hearings of Baikal protection bill were organized on the initiative of People’s Hural of Buryat Republic deputies. The bills, first studied by the Supreme Soviet Committees, then by State Duma deputies, were then generalized and brought up for discussion by the interested public. Mr. Rybkin, State Duma Chairman, had first objected to the idea as there existed no provisions on the away hearings, but after our appeals to the leaders of Duma parties, we managed to get the permission to organize the event. The hearings in Buryatia were attended by several State Duma deputies and its members, representatives of the central government, our counterparts from other regions: the Chairman of Chita Region Duma, the Chairman of Nature management and Ecology Protection Committee of the Irkutsk Region Legislative Assembly, Deputy-Head of Administration in Ust-Ordynsk Buryat Autonomous District.

Several representatives of the State Duma, members of Legislative Assemblies of Irkutsk and Chita, Ust-Ordynsk Autonomous District, leading experts of Buryat Scientific Center and Baikalsk Limnologhical Institute of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences and more than 100 representatives of authorities and public movements of Buryatia attended the hearings. We can say that it was the first public discussion of Baikal protection law which should include not only regulations in the sphere of ecology but also the protection of native population interests of the area.

Parliamentary meetings started with an opening remark of Mr Semyonov, the Peoples’ Hural Chairman. The author of this book, at that time being the Deputy Chairman of People’s Hural, also had an opportunity to address the public. My report was based on sociological survey among 761 people living in Pribaikalie in more than 10 settlements of Kabansky and Pribaikalsky Districts and this gave the report the status of a collective contemplation over the future of our dear Baikal. I would like to give a short outline of major issues and problems of Buryatia population of that time:

• more than 80% of respondents were concerned about the future of Baikal,

• about 60% were aware of Selenginsk Pulp and Cardboard Plant’s harmful activity,

• the majority of the respondents opposed to the sale of land in Pribaikalie area into private ownership,

• half of the respondents thought that social and economic crisis had lead to the public indifference to Baikal ecological problems,

• more than 60% respondents believed that the authorities only talk about the solution of ecological problems but do not really do anything.

The survey also indicated that though the bill on Baikal ecology was published in the Republic, more than 70% of the respondents had no idea of its existence.

The hearings were aimed at attracting the public attention to legal issues of Baikal protection as well as at involving the population into the process of ecological law making. Mr. Astafiev, the Head of State Duma Committee on Natural Resources Management pointed out: «I see no use in suggestions and comments on “Baikal protection” bill made by the people living in other regions, for example, Kaliningrad or Karelia». As Baikal is the treasure of people living on its shores … we do not need some law, we need the law which would combine ecological and economic issues» (242, p.32). In over 20 speeches, parliamentary hearings participants suggested more than 100 amendments to the bill. A number of regulations within the law were corrected and supplemented as a result of the hearings, especially in terms of reflecting the interests of native population of the region. The law was adopted in 1999 in a slightly different form. The adoption was delayed because of the fact that some deputies failed to understand the significance of Baikal for the Russian and International communities and viewed it as a bill that was going through the Duma due to the influence of regional authorities. Several variants of the bill, worked out by different “subjects” caused even more confusion: there were about 15 variants of the bill (237, p.11–12), and every legislator vigorously defended his own priority.

The book “Legal protection of Lake Baikal and its territory” contains regulations directed at interconnection of environmental protection and economic activity in such subjects of the Russian Federation as the Republic of Buryatia, the Chita and Irkutsk regions. It lists the two laws, the resolution of the People’s Hural of Buryatia and a number of resolutions of the Buryat government, many of which you can also find in this book. The book also mentions two resolutions on recreational sites in Kabansky district of Buryatia as an illustration. The law “On specially protected areas and reserves of the Chita Region” is the only environment protection law in the Chita Region, as lawyers claim. In the Irkutsk Region there are five resolutions made by Governor concerning amateur fishery, water control, ecological monitoring, development of Baikal Pulp and paper Plant, defining the conditions of specially protected forest areas in the Irkutsk Region.

Differences in levels and contents of the documents show that there is no consistent approach to the issue and there exists a variety of views on aspects and directions of high priority in the field of environmental protection measures in different regions of the country. This fact shows that the regions have an opportunity for cooperation in working out common regulations concerning the protection of Lake Baikal and its territory. Since there are regional and municipal eligibilities apart from federal environmental protection jurisdiction, the regions will have to cooperate in carrying them out.

Laws and regulations should have a decisive role in the solution of environmental problems. Environment-oriented economy of Japan is a good example here. We should point out the fact that Japan implemented a number of regulations in 60-70-s to achieve this result.

In general, environmental protection activity of the Japanese government had been regulated during that period by the following laws:

On institutional reorganizations:

• Law on the foundation of environmental protection Committee;

• Law on the creation of a public damage prevention service in some industrial enterprises;

• Law on the foundation of the committee responsible for the solution of public damage problems.

On atmosphere protection:

• Safety law for mine workers;

• Law on the control of air pollution.

On water basins:

• Sewage systems law;

• Water pollution control law;

• Seas and oceans pollution control law.

On soil pollution control:

• Agricultural chemicalization control law;

• Farmland pollution control law.

On noise pollution control:

• Law on controlling aircraft noise pollution in the areas ajacent to airfields;

• Noise pollution control law.

On soil subsidence control:

• Law on industrial water use;

• Law on ground water use in construction.

On environment protection:

• Law on hunting and the protection of birds and animals;

• Natural parks law;

• Law on environment protection;

On environmental expenditures and environment protection funding:

• Law on the Corporation of public damage control;

• Law on business expenditures on public damage control;

• Law on the Corporation of medium and small businesses support.

We can definitely say that our country needs similar blocks of comprehensive laws. If federal agencies can’t work them out in time, the work should be done by the regional authorities (within the limits of their power), though Baikal needs trans-regional laws, as we have pointed out before.

Efficiency of social legislation is evaluated by the members of the society it is directed at, and environmental protection legislation results should be reflected on every single representative of flora and fauna in particular, and on the whole ecosystem in general.

In these terms, persistence and survival rate of Baikal bears – which are the masters of taiga – as well as the same rates of other representatives of Russian fauna - is the most essential criterion to estimate the efficiency of environmental protection legislation. So this is bears and the like who should see whether the environmental laws have positive results for the species of flora and fauna. This is what I meant when giving such a title to the chapter.

Baikal by the will of Providence has become the battle field of the environment protection wars in Russia. This experience has shown that reckless exploitation of nature leads to impractical protection projects, as it has no real concern about a human being and the humanity. That is why in our struggle for the sustainable future of Baikal region and cooperation in environmental protection we should do everything we can to exclude every single source of danger instead of minimizing it. 

See also


  1. A.D. Karnyshev "The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal"© BSU Publishing House, 2011

Выходные данные материала:

Жанр материала: English | Автор(ы): Karnyshev A.D. | Источник(и): The Many Faces of Multilingual and Mysterious Baikal. Ulan-Ude. 2012 | Дата публикации оригинала (хрестоматии): 2011 | Дата последней редакции в Иркипедии: 30 марта 2015

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Тематический указатель: Irkipedia English