8.1 This unit is about Lake Baikal and its reserve. Can you remember:
a) where Baikal is?
b) how deep Baikal is?
c) what lakes may be compared with Baikal?
8.2 You are going to read a passage from the article “The World’s Great Lake», by Don Belt, an American journalist. The following words are in the order in which they appear in the passage. Check that you know what they mean.
Crown jewel of Russia’s natural inheritance, Baikal is the world’s oldest and deepest lake – an environmental battleground and a godsend in hard times.
The snows of Siberia come to Lake Baikal in early October. By November the lake itself begins to freeze. With the average winter temperature around minus 20˚C (0˚F), the ice gets thick enough – well over a metre – to support truck convoys laden with supplies for the more remote towns along Baikal’s shore. In 1904, during the Russo – Japanese War, sections of railway track were even laid across the ice to transport more than 2,000 flatcars and 65 locomotives to the battlefront.
By mid-April the ice, begins to thaw and break apart, hacked to pieces by furious squalls that roar down river valleys on winds reaching 160 kilometres an hour. Then in May, after a scout plane confirms that it is clear enough of ice, several hundred ships – tugboats, timber barges, research vessels, and fishing boats – resume their labours on the world’s great lake. So huge and volatile is Baikal that sailors here talk in spring of ‘going to sea’.
Still remarkably clean, Baikal nevertheless feels the effects of air and water pollution from various sources, including industries around Irkutsk and from the Selenga River, which provides half the water flowing into Baikal. Most controversy centres on the effluent from a cellulose plant at Baikalsk.
In 1957, when the public first heard about plans for this factory, people began to protest. Local scientists, writers, fishermen and ordinary citizens banded together, to fight the plant, igniting an environmental movement. After years of protest, the lake’s defenders were rewarded in April 1987, when the Soviet government issued a comprehensive decree protecting Lake Baikal. Among other things, it abolished logging anywhere close to the lakeshore and decreed that the cellulose plant be ‘reprofiled’ for activities harmless to the environment by 1993. Meanwhile the dumping of industrial waste into Baikal continues, and bilious smoke still rises from the plant 24 hours a day. The Baikalsk Cellulose-Paper Plant pollutes only a tiny portion of the lake, but that does mollify many Russians. Baikalsk has become a national symbol of the dangers facing our environment. Less publicized but just as threatening are coal-fired power plants which may do as much harm by causing acid rain.
Recently the Baikal International Centre for Ecological Research has been founded. Each field season brings more scientists from abroad to study what many consider the world’s most interesting lake. Baikal is indeed a living museum of aquatic plants and animals that have evolved during its life span. It is also incredibly rich in life at all depths. Unlike lakes in hot climates, Baikal mixes thoroughly; as its cold waters sink, they carry oxygen even to the deepest parts of the lake.
Samples taken from the southern end of the lake tell that the cellulose plant pollutes some 200 square kilometres. Scientists are especially alarmed by the presence of chlorinated compounds – they may one day accumulate to toxic levels in the food chain. Because of this plant some even speak of Lake Baikal in the past tense, as if its ecosystem is already dead. Other scientists disagree with that dire conclusion. But there’s no doubt that the plant pollutes the area. Its emissions make Baikalsk one of the most polluted cities in Russia, and forests of larch and pine nearby show unmistakable signs of degradation.
In 1995 the plant discharged 26,000 tons of minerals, 200 tons of suspended substances and 2,500 tons of organic by-products into Lake Baikal.
People say, “We must save Baikal for our children”. Lake Baikal is a symbol, of all the things that give Siberian life its distinct sweetness – the natural beauty, the purity of open air, the hardy generosity of people and the poetry in their collective soul. This is what Russians mean when they talk about the Motherland. And nothing is more precious to them than that.
8.3 Here are some words from the passage. First, decide what part of speech they are: noun, verb or adjective. Then match them with their meanings in the context of the passage.
to transport / huge / to centre / defender / to dump / tiny / to pollute / to face / waste / scout / harmless / span / dire
1 extremely large
2 extremely small
3 extremely terrible
4 to carry from one place to another
5 to be opposite to
6 to make dirty
7 to throw down carelessly
8 to focus
9 somebody or something that is getting information
10 someone who protects
11 unable to cause damage
12 unwanted material
13 a period of time
8.4 Complete the definitions. You may use a dictionary.