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World's largest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal under threat

World's largest freshwater lake, Lake Baikal under threat
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Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake is under threat. It lies around 5,000 kilometres east of Moscow and holds about one fifth of the world’s freshwater.

Illegal logging, construction and mineral mining are among the threats which some blame for the fact the water level in the lake has reached its lowest in 60 years.

“We see a phenomenon here that the lowering of the water level compared to this time last year is connected to a natural factor – less water entering Baikal which scientists did not expect.

‘The fact that more water was pumped through the Irkutsk hydroelectric power station led them to expect a high level of water in the lake,” explained environmentalist Marina Rikhvanova.

The lake’s water level dropped by 40 centimetres compared to 2013 falling to 456.09 metres and that’s just nine centimetres over the minimum admissible level set by the Russian government.

Environmentalists say that extremely hot and dry summers and felling forests around the lake could also have contributed to the drop in levels. According to some researchers more time is needed to reach more definitive conclusions.

“I say we have to wait and see, one, two years will pass, we will gather all information and then we will be able to say whether is is a natural phenomenon or not. At the moment it is difficult to say,” explained senior researcher Andrei Zhdanov.

Some scientists warn that if Baikal’s water level did drop below 456 metres then it could cause irreversible harm to the lake’s ecosystem.