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Why is it drying up one of the largest freshwater lakes in Russia?

The locals do not believe the explanations of the authorities

The bottom step indicates the water level, the water was coming this far. The water used to reach where I am now, shows Elvira Galiamova

Even if environmental protection is not on the list of emergencies for politicians in Moscow, it is important for people in the area of Lake Urgun, located 2,000 kilometers from the Russian capital. Elvira Galiamova grew up here and over the years she has seen the water stretch decrease. She is afraid that she will lose this corner of nature, with its precious water, which she considers magical.

Two buckets full a day – Elvira Galiamova came to appreciate this chore. “This water is magical!” She says.

The young woman from the Republic of Bashkortostan lives near Lake Urgun. But the road to the expanse of water is growing more and more, while one of the largest lakes in the country is shrinking. Lake Urgun is drying up. Thus disappear a place of recreation for the people of Bashkortostan and a habitat for fish such as pikeperch, slug or pike.

In addition, Lake Urgun is an important source of water for Elvira Galiamova. He uses it to water the plants in the garden.

“This is a freshwater lake, fed by underground springs and rainwater. It is an incredibly beautiful, large lake. By the way, in the language of Bashkortostan, urgun means great “, says Elvira.

A copper mine, pointed

But in the last ten years, the lake shore has changed. The locals saw algae appear and witnessed the water contamination.

“Look at these steps! The bottom step indicates the water level, the water was coming this far. These steps were made by the locals who went down to the water to swim. The water used to reach where I am now “, shows Elvira Galiamova.

Environmentalists believe that the industrial units in the area are to blame for reducing the lake. One of them is the Ucealinski mine, opened in the 1960s for the extraction of copper and zinc. The mine needs water. It has a permit to pump water from another lake, but unfortunately both lakes are connected by a pipeline – a Soviet-era construction designed to level the water level.

“Valuable water flows from Lake Urgun through this pipeline. It flows into the other lake to be used for production “, explains Elvira Galiamova.

The Ucealinski mine provides jobs for almost 3,000 people. But, locals say, it pollutes the whole area.

Local: “I received a letter that said nothing”

Deutsche Welle asked for a point of view from the company’s management and received a video message stating: “The pipeline between Uceali and Urgun lakes was closed in 2019 and has not been used since. In May 2021, the mine completely stopped pumping water from Lake Uceali through the pumping station and has since used closed circuit technology, ”said Tatiana Lizunova of the Ucealinski Mine Environment Department.

Many locals don’t believe that. They have formed a group of environmental activists and are requesting a meeting with the company’s management – so far, without success. I collect signatures and write them to the authorities. They are willing to do anything to prevent the disappearance of Lake Urgun.

“I spoke with 300 families and collected over 500 signatures. I asked the Ministry of Environment for help. Instead, I only received a letter that said nothing “, says Elvira Galiamova.

Authorities blame global warming

However, the government sent a commission last year to inspect Lake Urgun. The conclusion was that environmental regulations were not violated at any time. According to the commission, the lake is shrinking due to global warming.

“We have been observing this process since 2007. Colleagues from the Bashkortostan Water Administration have confirmed this. Throughout the republic, we have noticed a decrease in water reserves “, says Ildar Garifulin, Deputy Minister of Environment.

For Elvira Galiamova, Lake Urgun means more than water supply. She thinks the lake is enchanted and can fulfill various wishes if you talk to her.

“I really believe we will save you! Give us a chance to protect this primordial beauty. With the help of rainwater and melted snow, the lake will regenerate itself. We just have to leave him alone “, says the woman.

Three years ago, the Ucealinski Plant decided to intensify production.

For now, tourists still come to Lake Urgun, as do fishermen, but no one knows for how long.

Source: https://www.dw.com/en/russia-baskirs-want-to-save-lake-urgun/av-59038349



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