We can speak endlessly about the effect of water on health. It is both its purification mission, and water therapy with the soothing effect of water falling sounds, and healing effects of aquatic procedures and many other good things. Moreover, the legends about the Baikal emphasize that water healing properties intensify after prayers and ministry to masters and the spirits of the Sacred Sea. But it is necessary to emphasize the healing effect of cold water. In terms of getting tempered the Baikal waters are an inexhaustible resource of improving human health. The ones, who learnt to swim in the Sacred Sea at any season, protect themselves from many diseases, because cold water is a source of people power and strength.
Antoine de Saint Exupery created an anthem to water in prose: "You, Water, have no taste, no color, no smell, you cannot be described, you can be only enjoyed, and nobody knows what you are. We cannot say that we need you for life, you are life yourself. You fill us with joy that cannot be explained. You return us the strength, to which we have already said goodbye. By your grace dried springs of our hearts start seething again. You are the greatest wealth in the world ...”
In his own way, but no less powerful Andrey Bitov wrote: “The water is the most surprising thing in the world: transparent, tasteless, no smell in it, but you drink it anyway! It is quenching. It flows down your beard, and it is wealth in itself ... It is like air, it is so wonderful and not possible to describe anther way. If there is a real thirst, it is air then”.
Different peoples’ legends wondered about the nature and significance of water in a very original and poetic way. They emphasized not only consumer value of water, but rather its symbolic, sacramental significance for the human soul and communities. As in the epic “Er Sogotokh”, the main character is sailing down River Lena, and he still does not forget about this essence:
“… And having drawn water from Lake Baikal
He filled the bull bladder with it.
It will scare away the evil spirit,
It will sprinkle the ashes,
It will bless the house and memory”.
Usually none thinks about water when there is enough of it. The Mongolian proverb says: “A man does not value water until the spring dries up”. In recent years the mankind has realized at last that they are polluting and drying up the sources of water that are so vital for all people.
The “Water Charter” that was adopted on May 6, 1976 by the European Council in Strasbourg stresses the importance of water protection:
1. “There is no life without water. Water is a valuable and absolutely essential source of human life.
2. Clear water reserves are not infinite. Therefore, their protection, saving and, where possible, augmentation are becoming more and more challenging.
3. Polluting water people harm themselves and all living organisms.
4. Water quality must meet the sanitary standards and be approved for use.
5. Used water must be returned to the reservoirs in such a condition that cannot prevent its further public and individual use.
6. In maintaining water supplies a significant role is performed by vegetation, especially forests.
7. Water resources must be listed and registered.
8. Expedient use of water should be planned by the competent institutions.
9. For water resources protection there is a need in intensified scientific research, specialists training and explanatory work among the population.
10. Each of us must use water thriftily for the sake of all people.
11. Water resources management should be based not only on administrative and political boundaries, but rather on natural boundaries of water reservoirs.
12. Water has no boundaries. Therefore, its use and protection demand international cooperation”.
Apparently, much water will have flown away under the bridge and it will have taken much effort by the moment the charter theses will be realized in practice.
Moreover, under the conditions of the Russian reality when people are accustomed to wasteful, careless and unthrifty attitude to water, it will take much time to explain the essential requirements of “Water Charter” to people.
The well known fact that is taken by some people as a most wide-spread myth in “statistical” myths about Lake Baikal is that the Sacred Sea contains up to 20% of the world freshwater supply. Is this really true? It is and it is not at the same time. Indeed, the lake contains about one fifth of the world above the ground fresh water that can be found in different water reservoirs on our planet: rivers, lakes, small reservoirs and also in the atmosphere. But it is also true that the entire amount of listed above ground waters is very little in comparison with other supplies of water, it is less than 1%. The most significant part of water supply on the Earth is contained in the so-called snow and ice masses: in the South and North Poles (the Antarctica and Arctic, ice fields and icebergs in the respective seas), on tops and slopes of the world highest mountain ranges; they contain more than 80% of the planet water supply. The second significant part of water supply is the underground water; there is about 13% of it, but we should bear in mind that the majority of underground water “containers” are not yet found.
Thus, in the Baikal there is only one tenth of the world fresh water supply. But the beauty of the “vessel” that contains this liquid with its purity, taste and health-giving value, a chance to contemplate such a huge water reservoir personally and compare it with the other similar reservoirs, all this makes the myth of the Sacred Sea water close to people and psychologically intelligible.
The Baikal replenishes its volume in about 70 km3 of water annually, and this mostly is fulfilled by rivers and creeks (over 80%) and precipitation (about 13%). Virtually at the zero balance the consumption of the lake water is made by the Angara run-off (over 60 km3), and evaporation.
Despite the significant amount of water in the lake reservoir and the sufficient depth of it, the problem of its attitude fluctuation above the ocean is very topical nowadays. And this problem affects many aspects of life supporting interaction between different attributes of the Sacred Sea. Lake Baikal critical attitude to the sea is considered to be the mark of 456, 00 m, if it falls below this mark and remain low for quite a long time it can lead to irreparable consequences for its flora and fauna. Typically, the lake attitude regime ranges within 456,1 – 456, 8 m a year; in summer and autumn periods the fluctuations range more, and in winter and spring periods (before the mass snowmelt) less.
Another destabilizing factor of Lake Baikal attitude fluctuation to the sea is shallow dry and full-flowing periods in the region. For example, at the very beginning of the third millennium there was water shortage, but since 2008 the fluctuations of water is likely to change.
The main regulator of the Baikal water level is Irkutsk Hydroelectric Power Station. The water level is a very important factor of its work as 1 cm of water surface depth of the lake is about 0.3 km3 of water volume, and this water supply provides the production of more than 200 million kW of electricity. It is not a small sum of money, and when the water level of the Baikal lowers close to the critical point the state supervisory authorities try to find the reason for it both in the work of people and the climate conditions.
But still the governmental departments’ interests make themselves apparent. In October 2008 the Ministry of Energy displayed the initiative to reduce the critical mark of the Baikal water level by 20 cm. According to the calculations of the Ministry officials such reduction of the Baikal water level will lead to the increase of power generating capacity of the Angara-Yenisei cascade of water reservoirs up to 1000 MW without capital investments, and the production of hydropower in Siberia in the autumn and winter periods will increase up to 5 billion kW/h; it will also help to improve the reliability of peak load transmission in the near future and reduce the cost of the produced electricity for consumers.
Ecologists are actively opposing to such kind of proposals. They say if we reduce the level of Lake Baikal by 20 сm, in some river deltas (especially that of the Selenga), the water will move away from banks by about 10 m, and this will have harmful effect on its flora and fauna. Spawning grounds of some fish (especially gobies) will be replaced, muskrats huts will dry up, gulls’ eggs will suffer from water shortage, etc. The Baikal flora and fauna have overcome the start of the Irkutsk Hydroelectric Power Station, which was a great stress for it because of the water level raise. For the past half of a century the nature of the lake has adapted to the huge changes, but the ecosystem is unlikely to overcome the new ordeal. In our point of view, the authors of such above-mentioned projects are only able to count their profit from the business. They do not think about the future of flora and fauna of Lake Baikal, for them the lake is just a reservoir, from which they can draw hard golden coins. But life is persistent in setting a task to people to make “economics ecological, and ecology economical”.
Let us come back to the question of the Sacred Sea volume. If one centimeter of the Baikal water surface area is poured out into tank cars, each with the capacity of 60 tons, it will make 5 million of such containers. The train of these tanks cars can circle the earth at the equator almost twice. And the immediate cost of this round-the-Earth train will amount to a huge sum of money. There are other calcualtions, and sometimes quite curious. Thus, the well-known science popularizer J. Perelman once showed tremendous volume of Lake Baikal water in a quite a “sadistic” way: if all the mankind is drown in the lake, the level of water will increase by 5 mm.
The information about the colossal volume of the lake capacity, measured by human lives, by kW/h and hard coins, the efficiency of its water resources are complemented by the impressive information about its water transparent and crystal character. Apart from the sors such as Proval in most parts of the Baikal the surface water is very transparent. There is a famous water test when from the ship deck into the lake they descend a 30 cm in diameter white disc tied up to a rope, and the disk stays visible at the depth of 30 – 40 meters. Scientists believe that if light penetrated into the Baikal depths, in the “core” waters of the lake (300 m from the surface to 100 m from the bottom) the white disk could be visible through the water layer of 100 meters! According to its usability the core water of the lake is considered the standard of fresh water.
The peculiar feature of the Baikal water is its low rate of mineralization. The total content of dissolved substances in it does not exceed 0.1 g/ l; it is several times less mineralized than fresh underground water. In China there is a concept of the longevity water. It was delivered from the highlands and was available for very few people. It had healing properties due to two factors. First, it was water melted of mountain snow, and therefore it was very pure. Second, within its circulation the water was purified of sediments and minerals in a natural way. And we must say that Baikal water also possess such “longevity” features especially if it is taken from the depth. It dissolves various slags formed in organs and cells, and then excretes them with urine and sweat. Such constant washing of the body contributes to its longevity.
In comparison with other reservoirs the Baikal water contains little quantity of calcium and sodium. Therefore, if a person is predisposed to hypertension, coronary heart disease, if he or she has a kidney disease or has noticed that the joints begin to ache because of salt deposits, in all these cases, the best prevention and diet will be the use of the Baikal water.
In the XXIst century in different countries they raise the idea that water is becoming a major natural resource, as it supports life and health. Today, all over the world the demand for bottled water is growing, as it is clean and there are no harmful impurities in it. It becomes a habit, a natural need for those who take care of their health and the health of their relatives. But the problem is that in some places there is a shortage of even unpurified water. Not accidentally the projects of “bending the northern rivers” and transportation of their waters to the territory of Central Asian countries into the Aral Sea basin are being revived. The well-known politician, Mayor of Moscow Yuri Luzhkov in his book “Water and Peace” published in the autumn of 2008 devoted a substantial part of it to this problem. In particular, he believed that the fight against this project had an underlying purpose of destroying the unity of destiny, common history of Russia and Central Asia, the dismantling of the Soviet Union on behalf of the USSR liberal intelligentsia in the 80s. Today the correction of mistakes makes it possible to treat water as a commodity. The question is rather debatable.
Today it is also impossible to evade the question of the world commercial value of Lake Baikal water. In fact, according to the available data, in 2008 in different countries there were more than 1 billion people suffering from fresh water shortage; by 2020 this figure can increase five times and cover about 70% of the world population.
Experts claim the following interesting fact: China, once allowed, instead of oil could extend “water” pipeline from Lake Baikal to their territory. And they would pay as much as it is claimed. This encourages economists to make the appropriate calculations. We will also try to calculate the cost of 1cm of the Baikal water surface that is about 300 million km3. For example, in Denmark in 2009 the 1 m3 of clean water cost was about $ 3. In this case the price of our “water train” will be about one billion dollars. And theoreticaaly it is possible to sell not one but few centimeters of the Baikal water surface without much damage to the lake ecosystem.
Someone even estimated the total cost of the Baikal water that presents an astronomical sum of money: 231015 trillion of USD [16, p. 6]. Experts calculated that the potential project of large-capacity bottling or pipeline transportation of the Baikal water can bring an income of up to $ 300 billion per year, and make a budget profit up to $ 50 billion. This potential can be demanded not only by China, but also by other Asian countries in the near future and can be exploited for hundreds of years. The Baikal pollution eliminates these projects and leads to the loss of huge profits and destroying of people’s health all over the world. Due to such careless and unthrifty attitude to the interests of people the international the prestige of Russia will fall down. This in its turn will affect the economic development of the region because of the country non-compliance to preserve the site put in the World Heritage List. But most of all the lake water pollution will affect its healing properties.
In terms of ecology we can hope that the need to provide the “commercial” purity of the Baikal water would require more stringent regulations of nature management, forest management, etc. The means to implement these nature management activities will be provided by the water sale profit. And in that case the special value of the Baikal water lies in the fact that it can contribute to a more intensive protection of the environment.
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