territory of two states, Russia and Mongolia. The territory of the Baikal region stretches from south to north for 1300 km, and from west to east for 1,000 km. Its total area is 800,000 sq. km. The unique combination of various landscapes in the center of Asia—from mountain-tundra and mountain-taiga to steppe and semi-desert along with the largest and most ancient freshwater reservoir—is of special significance and value in the biosphere structure of the planet as a whole.
The Baikal watershed occupies territory in the southeast of Siberia and the northern part of Mongolia. The largest part is located in Russia, where it has been divided without taking into account the lake’s area over several administrative and territorial entities of the Russian Federation: Republic of Buryatia-73 percent, Chita Oblast-21 percent, Irkutsk Oblast-6 percent. The Baikal ecosystem has become better known just as its protection and rational use have become more complicated. New territories located outside the bounds of the lake’s watershed have been included in the Baikal region, including that part of Irkutsk Oblast that adjoins the northwest boundary of the Baikal watershed. It is up to 200 km. wide and regarded as a zone from which atmospheric emissions of industrial installations may reach the watershed.
At present in accordance with the Law of the Russian Federation “On Protection of Lake Baikal,” the Baikal region is divided into three zones:
Central ecological zone (“the core”)—territory that includes Lake Baikal and islands, a water protection zone adjacent to Lake Baikal, and protected natural territories adjacent to Lake Baikal;
Buffer ecological zone—territory outside the central ecological zone that includes the watershed of Lake Baikal within the bounds of the Russian Federation;
Ecological zone of atmospheric effect—territory outside the watershed of Lake Baikal within the bounds of the Russian Federation up to 200 km. wide to the north and northwest of the watershed where there are economic units with activity that has a negative influence on Lake Baikal.
Such a division of the Baikal region is an important condition for preservation of Baikal as a part of the World Nature Heritage.
At the same time, the Baikal region is characterized by considerable development of industry and agriculture, which cannot avoid affecting the condition of the lake. Therefore, the question of a balanced solution of ecological and socio-economic problems is especially acute here.
The following ecological problems of the Baikal region are priority issues:
The natural conditions of the geosystem components
Preservation of a large amount of biological diversity
Consequences of industrial and agricultural development
Use of reliable ecological information