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Chinese invasion to Baikal: new wave

New post-COVID wave of Chinese economic and touristic invasion to Baikal is registered and raised in the whole Siberian media during current winter. It was the key topic here during 2017-2020, when active civil protesting campaign of local citizens enforced officials to stop illegal delivery of some land plots around lake for Chinese hotels and even start demolishing some ones. Significant project of Baikal water pipeline from Kultuk to the thirsty northern Chinese provinces, started with construction around 2017, was also stopped, although water deficit there is estimated as 70 billion cu meters. Municipal Head of Listvyanka settlement, the top attraction for Chinese tourists 60 km far from Irkutsk, was then arrested under criminal investigation for illegal lease of 1400 square meters of land target to construct Chinese hotel. The same sentence was presented to him again in 2019.

Chinese entrepreneur Qu Fei planned to create brothel and SPA-complex in Listvyanka, near historic cemetery, but was stopped by prosecutor, leaving semi-constructed building forever. Nonetheless, covid had gone and Chinese tourists flow to this tight place between steep hills and lake continue grow rapidly with several big buses coming here every day. Two times a day buses are replaced by sewage disposal trucks, although many small hostels continue dropping sewage waters straight to Angara river and sacred Baikal. Russian-Chinese family, owning “Mandarin” hotel, drilled illegal well to get fresh water, which caused dramatic loss of water from neighboring public well. According to many Chinese tourists been interviewed by the local media, Chinese consider themselves as historical owners of Baikal zone, that’s why their behavior is so brave and impudent here.

By the same reason, new post-covid stage of discussions around Baikal water supply to China had raised in media this winter. According to reports from officials in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, they still intend to build the fresh water pipeline through Mongolia to China, although the feasibility of such three- lateral plan is highly questionable. It is pointed out that distribution of water resources in China is deeply disbalanced, leaving Beijing, Shanghai, Xinjiang-Uygur, Shangji, Hebei, Ningxia and Hunan provinces with high deficit. It creates huge problems for agriculture and food supply at the North.

But, reportedly, the result of new negotiations stage on the water topic turned highly unexpected for China. Russian officials closed discussions without any doubts and recommended Chinese colleagues to better analyze and manage their own resources more efficiently. After the first emotional reaction from Chinese media, Siberian journalists reminded the global value of Baikal as a World Heritage Site, which all 3 neighboring countries have to take care of altogether not to turn it to dump, as it occurred with many water reservoirs over the South Asia. By UN data, fresh water supply in the Central Asia had reduced during last half century by 3,5 times, and personal water deficit up to the end of this year may become crucial – 1,7 m3 a year.

Therefore, Russian government invests 22 billion rubles in 2023-2025 to Baikal protection measures. Nonetheless, experts forecast that Chinese will not stop rely on Baikal water, trying to suggest more investments into region for it, as well as they will continue sending more and more tourists to their “historical heritage” and develop own local infrastructure.