Lake Baikal (1996)
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Situated in south-east Siberia, the 3.15-million-ha Lake Baikal is the oldest (25 million years) and deepest (1,700 m) lake in the world. It contains 20% of the world's total unfrozen freshwater reserve. Known as the 'Galapagos of Russia', its age and isolation have produced one of the world's richest and most unusual freshwater faunas, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science.
Lake Baikal is located in southern Siberian Russia in the autonomous republic of Buryatia, an autonomous region in Southern Siberia. The southern shores of the lake are inhabited by the Buryats.
||The red spot indicates the exact location, with lake Baikal
on the western borderline of Buriatia. The administrative center is Ulan-Ude.
The lake has an area of 31,500 sq km (12,200 sq mi), and it has about 1963 km (about 1220 mi) of shoreline, making it the third largest lake in Asia, and the largest freshwater lake, in terms of surface area, on the Eurasian continent. The crescent-shaped lake is 636 km (395 mi) long and varies in width from about 14 to 80 km (about 9 to 50 mi). The major city on the western shoreline is Irkutsk, also a stopover for the Transsiberian Railway.
The lake contains an outstanding variety of endemic flora and fauna, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science. It is also surrounded by a system of protected areas that have high scenic and other natural values. The lake is fed by the Selenge, Barguzin, and Verkhnaya Angara rivers and by more than 300 mountain streams. The only outlet is the lower Angara, which flows west from the lake into the Yenisey River. The Baikal, Barguzin, and other mountain ranges surround the lake, rising on all shores except the southeastern Selenge delta.
||Lake Baikal has several islands, the largest of which is
Olkhon. Nizhneangarsk and Listvyanka are ports on the lake. Baikal is known for the remarkable clarity of its waters and for the great diversity of its plant and animal life; the majority of species found in the lake are endemic.
The sturgeon, salmon, and freshwater-seal fisheries of the lake are valuable, and large quantities of other fish are also caught.
Petroleum wells and mineral and hot springs are found in the vicinity.
In the 1950s and 1960s, much of the unique plant and animal life in Baikal was adversely affected when refuse from a Soviet pulp- and papermaking complex on the southern shore was deposited in the lake. During the 1970s efforts were made to curtail pollution and clean the lake's waters. A ban on fishing, imposed from 1969 to 1977, restored the stocks of many species.
The Russian discovery of Lake Baikal in 1643 provided an important link in the trade route between Russia and China, connecting Listvyanka with points east to the Mongolian frontier via the Selenge River and tributaries.
Sources and links:
Other World Heritage Sites in Russia (on this web site). Inactive links are not described on stamps. Please refer to the UNESCO-listing, Russia-section, for further information on such sites.
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Revised 21 jul 2006