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Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill: echoes of unsustainable production

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Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill: echoes of unsustainable production
Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill: echoes of unsustainable production

Unfortunately, the unique Lake Baikal has also been affected by environmental problems. One of them is related to the work of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, located in the Slyudyansky district. This is the territory of the Irkutsk region.

Today, many understand that it was a mistake to build such an enterprise on the shore of the lake. State measures have been developed aimed at eliminating the environmental damage caused to nature by the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill. Company address: Baikalsk, Promploshchadka, Tsentr.

How the enterprise was created

The plant started operating in 1966. The industrial zone is located on an area of ​​750 hectares, 150 km from Irkutsk and 1.5 km east of Baikalsk. During the years of the company's establishment, the defense industry needed high-quality cord pulp. The technology of such production involved the consumption of impressive volumes of exceptionally pure water. This fact explains the choice of location for the construction of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Plant.plant.

Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill

For production, the latest equipment for those times and progressive installations for the treatment of used water were used. Against the background of constant control by public and environmental authorities, water treatment facilities were steadily improved, research institutes developed new production technologies, sludge processing systems, and wastewater treatment. However, the environmental situation deteriorated. In 2013, the pulp and paper mill near Baikalsk was permanently closed.

City of Baikalsk

Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill products

This settlement arose at the pulp mill. From the very beginning, the infrastructure of the pulp and paper mill turned out to be closely connected with the public utilities of Baikalsk. Depended on the work of the enterprise:

  • Formation of the city budget.
  • Providing residents with heat and electricity.
  • Hot and cold water supply.
  • Socio-economic growth.

The population in Baikalsk reached 16 thousand people. 4130 of them were people of working age, 1665 were employed at the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill. The products were produced differently. These are wrapping paper, pulp and related products. Priority bleached pulp was used in the defense industry in the manufacture of Bulava and Topol missiles.

Problems of closing the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill

After the shutdown of the plant, the problems not only didn’t go anywhere, but also aggravated in many ways:

  • When the city-forming enterprise was closed, many were left without work, the infrastructure of Baikalsk suffered, social issues worsened.
  • Map pools (accumulators of pulp and paper mill waste) have not disappeared anywhere, the total volume of which is 8 million m33. Recycling requires a special technology. Money was allocated for this, the deadlines expired long ago, but the necessary method was not found for several years.
  • Geological threat is constantly looming due to mudflows from the Khamar-Daban ridge and the seismic hazard of this zone.
  • Socio-environmental problems may arise for the population, because the storage facilities are located only 200 meters from residential buildings and 400 meters from the shore of Lake Baikal.

A Dangerous Legacy

Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill address

The Ministry of Nature and Ecology of the Irkutsk Region on the eve of 2018 issued an order to start reclamation work at the pulp and paper mill. JSC "Rosgeologiya" undertook to fulfill the terms of the contract. The main part of the work, estimated at six billion rubles, is the destruction of lignin sludge with a total mass of 6,500 thousand tons. These are residues of industrial raw materials harmful to nature, accumulated in the water treatment facilities of the plant. They contain lignin components (up to 53%), alumina (from 16 to 24.9%), and the remaining 10% are cellulose fibers and polyacrylamides.

Earlier attempts to dispose of this waste were unsuccessful. In storage maps 30 years ago, anaerobic decay began to occur, gases were formed. The technology of drying and incinerating waste did not take root, sohow toxic substances were released during combustion.

Prevent mudflow disaster

Mudflow protection based on shock-absorbing rings

According to scientists, the accumulated waste can end up in Baikal without waiting for disposal. If a mudflow descends from the Khamar-Daban mountain range, the elements will simply wash away millions of tons of sludge directly into the lake. Specialists-limnologists of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Listvyanka) warn about this.

Mudflows in the Southern Baikal region occur every 4 decades. In Baikalsk it was in 71. Since then, a lot of mudflow materials have accumulated, and trees and shrubs have grown along the riverbeds. At the first powerful downpour, a mudflow is possible, which will blow away both the forest and everything in its path.

In order to prevent environmental disaster, a plan has been developed to create structures protecting against mudflows along the Malaya and Bolshaya Osinovka rivers. They will be installed near the Slyudyansky district center of the Irkutsk region. This construction is very costly for the regional budget, but necessary.

How are things today

Ski resort "Sobolinaya Gora"

As of March 2019, the former Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill is completing pilot testing to create a technology for recultivating the industrial site of the pulp and paper mill. Rosgeo JSC assumes that in the future the territory will be exploited only for its reclamation. The active liquidation phase is scheduled for June this year.

According to the General Director of JSC Roman Panov, the design and preparation phase will be completed in May, and the destruction ofwaste - after 2 years. In 2021, the issue will be settled. In 2013, after the closure of the Baikal Pulp and Paper Mill, an order was issued by the Prime Minister of the Russian Federation on the creation of an expo center "Reserves of Russia" on the territory of the pulp and paper mill. The proximity of the spurs of the Khamar-Daban ridge makes mountain and hiking tourism possible.

On the outskirts of Baikalsk, the Sobolinaya Gora ski resort operates, long-distance excursions to the biosphere reserve, to the Warm Lakes and other objects are organized. The city has a modern infrastructure. There are excellent opportunities for the development of small and medium-sized businesses.

Environmentalists believe that with the elimination of traces of the activity of the pulp and paper mill on the shores of Lake Baikal, the problems of the unique lake will not disappear. Flora and fauna are threatened by blue-green algae and tons of garbage left after the rest of irresponsible tourists. But the defenders of Lake Baikal are sure that all problems can be solved if we approach the matter of protecting natural resources responsibly.

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