Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing 22–23% of the world’s fresh surface water.
With 23,615.39 km3 (5,670 cu mi) of fresh water, it contains more water than the North American Great Lakes combined.
Located in south-eastern Siberia, Lake Baikal, with an area of 3.15 million hectares, is the oldest (25 million years) and the deepest (1,700 m) lake in the world. Its antiquity and isolation have produced one of the richest and most original freshwater fauna on the planet, which is of exceptional value to the science of evolution, which has earned it the nickname “Galapagos of Russia”.
The wildlife that inhabits it is, therefore, deeply original, rich in ancient endemic species whose study can reconstruct the history of its formation. The interest of this lake for the development of economic activities does not give in the least to that raised by its scientific examination. Baikal is home to very active fisheries and offers an excellent communication route, while the waters that escape it give birth to the most energy-rich river in all of eastern Siberia: Angara. While the shores of the lake lend themselves perfectly to the creation of a nature reserve, neighboring with resorts and rest, the development of the industry has imposed the adoption of legislation to protect the environment.
Impact of tourism
Experts describe the development of tourism on Baikal as “explosive”. Not without reason: the only capital of Olkhon – the village of Khuzhir, usually populated with 1500 inhabitants – hosts 500 000 visitors in summer. If the ecological crisis were to put an end to this influx, it would immediately turn into an economic crisis: tourism is the only source of income here. But for now, tourists are at the rendezvous. The boat docks on the bank, and a wind full of all these smells welcome them.