From 30 July to 3 August, the 6th international conference on "Living Lakes" took place in the capital Ulan-Ude of the Republic of Buryatia of the Russian Federation. Two days were devoted to oral and poster presentations on the themes "water quality and traditions in lake areas". Ramsar's Regional Coordinator for Europe presented the Convention on Wetlands and its tools for wise use and conservation. More than 100 participants, coming from over 20 countries, gathered in the parliamentary hall of the Buryatian capital. Ulan-Ude is situated on the Selenga river that originates in Mongolia and forms the main tributary to Lake Baikal (covering 3,1 million ha). A Lake Baikal World Heritage site of 8,8 million ha was declared in 1996, including National Parks, Biosphere Reserves and other protected areas alongside the lake. The Selenga formed an impressive delta on Baikal's south-eastern shore (of which 12,100 ha have been declared a Ramsar site in 1994) some 120 km downstream of Ulan-Ude.
The participants included "Living Lakes" partners and candidates from 20 or so lake areas across the world (many of them also Ramsar sites), staff and board members of the German "Global Nature Fund" that coordinates the Living Lakes partnership, a German State Secretary to the Minister of Environment, journalists of several important German medias, a team of the Canada-based World Environment TV Network (www.wetv.com), several experts of the companies sponsoring the campaign (Unilever, DaimlerChrysler, T-Mobil, etc.), and scientific experts from Buryatia and abroad.
From 1 to 3 August, the conference participants visited briefly the Selenga river delta, the international eco-education centre of the Baikal Joint Institute of Nature Management at Istomino village, and the lake shores east of the delta. Further visits included the water purification plants of the Selenginskii paper and pulp fabric, of the Ulan-Ude textile works and the urban sewage treatment station. The local environmental groups Gran Baikal Information Centre and Firn Club organised the conference, its field visits, and many impressive events on Buryatian culture. For more information on the "Living Lakes" international lake partnership and its past and planned activities visit www.globalnature.org.
-- reported by Tobias Salathé, Ramsar