ASLO comments on proposal to increase nutrient loads to Lake Baikal

ASLO has written to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of Russian Federation in response to ASLO member concern over proposed changes to regulations surrounding discharge into Lake Baikal (see The Moscow Times story for further information). The full text of the letter from ASLO President Mike Pace is below. 

 

April 3, 2019

Dear Minister Kobylkin Dmitry Nikolaevich:

I am writing to you in my capacity as President of the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). ASLO is an international, professional society of approximately 4,000 aquatic scientists from over 65 countries, including Russia. Some of our members have written to me to express concern over proposed changes to discharge permissions into Lake Baikal. Our understanding is that the proposed changes would allow a significant increase – of 20-30 times current allowed discharges into the lake. I respectfully urge you to reconsider the proposed changes to nutrient discharge allowances for Lake Baikal.

Large lakes, such as the Great Lakes of North America and Lake Baikal are global wonders and collectively hold the majority of the world’s available fresh water. Lake Baikal alone holds 20% of the planet’s unfrozen freshwater; the same amount contained in all of the North American Great Lakes. These large lakes are a source of national pride for the nations that are charged with their care, as well as providing freshwater for drinking, industry, recreation and tourism.

In North America, we’ve seen what nutrient discharge can do to freshwater bodies. When lakes are overrun with nutrients – either from sewage or fertilizer runoff – they enter a state of “eutrophication”. Eutrophication of water bodies is an area in which our membership has, unfortunately, a wealth of expertise. What our scientists and resource managers around the world have found time and again is that this process is difficult to reverse. The economic consequences include: reduced values for waterfront property, escalated costs for drinking water treatment to remove nitrogen, toxins and decomposition products, and a loss of tourism revenue. We hope you will not allow the same to happen to Lake Baikal.

Lake Baikal is one of Russia’s ecological treasures, as well as a tourist destination and source of water for industry and citizens. We hope you will take steps to prevent unnecessary – and possibly irreversible – harm to this beautiful water body and its unique biodiversity. We would be happy to connect you with some of our members who study Lake Baikal and the process of eutrophication, should you have technical questions.

Sincerely,

Michael L. Pace

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