What can and should be done for the effective protection of Lake Baikal by international legal means - a systematic approach to this is being worked out at Irkutsk State University. A scientifically-based concept of international legal protection of the Lake Baikal ecosystem is being developed by the staff of the ISU Scientific Research Institute for Legal Protection of Lake Baikal. The research is supported by a grant from the Russian Foundation for Basic Research (since 2019).
Dmitry Shornikov, Director of the ISU Scientific Research Institute for Legal Protection of Lake Baikal, Head of the Department of International and Comparative Law of the ISU Law Institute, told about the research and the concept. He identified two main areas of work:
- identification of problems in the protection of Baikal flora and fauna,
- analysis of national and international legislation.
Identification of problems in the protection of Baikal flora and fauna
Considering the current level of protection of the lake, it is possible to identify a number of problems. Of course, it is human activity that threatens the preservation of that unique natural phenomenon. Everyone knows about the most acute problems, for example, the rapidly increasing flow of tourists (the growth of which was only slightly interrupted during the pandemic). Others are somewhat less known to the general public, for example, Mongolia's construction of a system of hydroelectric power plants on the Selenga River. The growing flow of tourists obviously poses a threat to the territory of Lake Baikal. However, an analysis of world experience shows that the controlled development of tourism can contribute to the preservation of the Baikal ecosystem, and will also have a beneficial effect on the economy of the region. The construction of a system of hydroelectric power plants on the other hand does not look positive from any side yet, but perhaps the use of international legal mechanisms will allow us to find some compromise solution for a transformation of this project.
Analysis of national and international legislation
Since 1996, Baikal has acquired the status of a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site, so the lake is not only under national, but also under international protection. Russia, in this case, not only has obligations to preserve the lake to the world community, but can also claim scientific and organizational support for its efforts to form an effective mechanism for its protection. By now, the Russian Federation participates in more than three hundred of international treaties and agreements in the field of environmental protection, but perhaps even more remain outside the framework of national interests. The main objective of the project is to analyze the entire international environmental protection system, which should lead to a clear understanding of the elements that would be useful for us. Thus, in the course of the study, agreements in which the Russian Federation is already participating, agreements which it should join or repudiate were identified and analyzed, first of all, with regard to the protection of the unique ecological system of Lake Baikal.