World Bank Project Threatens Russia’s Lake Baikal

World Bank Project Threatens Russia’s Lake Baikal
February 18 01:26 2015 Print This Article

Critics say a plan to build several hydroelectric power plants in Mongolia would imperil the world’s deepest freshwater lake in neighboring Russia.

The World Bank is under fire again for another project that is marred by ethical, environmental and social concerns.

Communities living in the Selena river basin in Russia and Mongolia, and environmental groups including Greenpeace, filed a petition to the World Bank on Feb. 13 requesting that the international financial institution postpone moving forward on a project to build hydroelectric power plants they say are “dangerous.”

In addition to concerns about environmental damage and socioeconomic harms for the affected communities, the petition claims that the World Bank is not in compliance with its own safeguard policies, while the project also threatens Russia Lake Baikal — the world’s deepest freshwater lake.

Mongolia, with World Bank assistance, plans to build several hydrolectric power plants on rivers leading into Baikal, which would also divert water away from the lake facing already dangeroulsy low water levels., they are in the process of doing the impact assesment reports, with plans to begin construction within two years.

Read: World’s Deepest Lake at Historic Low

Russia’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology sent a letter to the World Bank in March 2013 expressing grave concerns. UNESCO, which designated Lake Baikal a World Heritage site, has called for a monitoring mission, which would include Russian representatives, to investigate and analyze potential environmental impacts.

The petition co-signed by Greenpeace stated, “Projects criticised by environmentalists should be stopped while there is no discussion in Mongolia and Russia about the cumulative impacts of planned dams on the ecosystem.”

The letter’s environmental and socioeconomic concerns include:

— Degradation of Lake Baikal, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, due to alteration of Selenge River ecosystem patterns and processes.

— Disruption to the river flow and human/animal movements.

— Degradation of critical habitats, including floodplains and the Selenge River Delta Ramsar site.

— Loss of economically valuable land, especially important crop and pasture land, as a result of reservoir flooding and floodplain degradation.

— Potential resettlement of about 30-100 families at each planned reservoir site and more from planned pipeline path.

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