Nature conservation with obstacles
Already in the beginning of the 20th century, the message of the matchlessness of Lake Baikal also reached the tsar court in St. Petersburg. Before, especially explorers from whole Europe as well as banned people like the Dybovski brothers had started to explore flora and fauna. But they didn't expect much in cold Siberia and the lore of the huge biological diversity made its way to Europe very slowly. The threat that the sobel furs which were very treasured by the court in St. Petersburg soon would not be available anymore due to the uncontrolled hunt made the tsar Nicholas II found Russia's first national park (Barguzinsky Zapevodnik) on the East Bank of Lake Baikal.
Because of the October Revolution though, this development was suddenly interrupted. From now on, the economic development and the resource extraction in whole Siberia came to the fore. With the help of thousands of prisoners Siberia's resources were to extract. Siberia's number of inhabitants rose rapidly, but however not the important infrastructure, which is why most of the big cities still lack efficient sewage plants today. With the building of the cellulose plant in Baikalsk in 1966, the biggest source of pollution of Lake Baikal so far was created.
A few years later nature conservation regained more significance though, and in 1969 the Baikalsky natural reserve and some years later the Kabansky and Frohlinsky natural reserve came into existence. But not before 1986 the whole Lake Baikal became a nature conservation area in the context of the UNESCO programme Man and Biosphere, even if the status as a biosphere reserves regulates much less strict constraints than a national park. At the same time, three further national parks were founded, like i.e. the Baikal-Lena National Park.
With the beginning of the Perestroika, people paid even more attention to nature protection, too, which resulted in the creation of a lakefront protection area of Lake Baikal in 1987. Therefore, especially logging and the transport of wood on and at Lake Baikal respectively, as well as the slash and burn, which was common until then, were forbidden, in order to protect the breeding area of many endemic fish species.
Almost 10 years later, after protracted negotiations between the Duma and President Yeltsin, a stricter law for the protection of Lake Baikal was passed and also UNESCO recognised the necessity to protect more Lake Baikal and nominated the whole basin of Lake Baikal a world natural habitat.
Despite all effort the pollution of Lake Baikal keeps increasing. Apart from the cellulose plant in Baikalsk and the run-off from the heavily polluted river Selenga, especially the pollution due to tourism and civilisation waste is increasing.
Since President Putin's accession of power, who subordinated the Committee for Nature Conservation to the Ministry of Natural Resources as one of his first official acts, it is hard for nature and environment conservation to stand up to the economical interests of this country. Putin's decision alone shows how much significance he attaches to nature and environment conservation.