The Words of the Rakityansky Family

Lake Baikal Volunteers Promote Ecotourism

Evgeny Rakityansky
July 3, 2011
UPF -- Russia

Slyudyanka, Russia -- On the southern tip of Lake Baikal, a volunteer forum and various environmental projects between June 26 and July 3 helped draw attention to ways volunteers can enhance the attraction of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The forum aimed to promote volunteerism nationally and locally, develop cooperation between volunteers, and create an informal volunteers association in Slyudyanka.

The forum opened on June 26 with a presentation and various competitions for children and families. Evgeny Rakityansky was MC at the opening event, which began with a short children's race directed by Ralif Galiyev. Participants competed to see who could hammer in a nail the fastest, drew pictures on the asphalt with colored chalk, played ball, expressed their good wishes for Slyudyanka, and did physical exercises that spontaneously turned into dancing. The sponsoring company, M-Video, offered financial support for buying prizes for the contests and sports competitions. Although it started raining, the mood of the participants remained sunny and the children's races and discussions of the project took place as planned.

Activities the next day began in the central square with physical exercises. Organizers set up a tent for discussions about volunteerism and photo exposition of bridges built across the Slyudyanka River during the Baikal project in previous summers. Passers-by looked at the photos and asked questions. These discussion about volunteerism helped stimulate interest in volunteer activities. People spoke about what volunteerism meant to them personally as well as how it helps build relationships with others and addresses needs in the larger society. In spite of the rainy weather, the team leaders made a reconnaissance, exploring the area for potential sites for volunteer activities. They discussed plans with the administration and selected working materials.

Volunteer work started the following day on Cape Shamansky, where logs were sawed and cut into two tables and a bench forming a "Volunteers resting place." The area was also thoroughly cleaned. A picturesque limestone crest at the headwaters of the Angara River, which flows out of the lake, Shamansky Cape has long been considered a sacred place for holding rituals and ceremonies. The nearby beach is used for recreation by the local people and tourists. It is a good place for camping and swimming, but litter often pollutes the area. In 2010 the local team of the Ministry of Extraordinary Situations collected and carried away 25 containers of litter and installed big trash cans and two toilets, important accommodations in a recreation area.

Volunteers cleaned the beach near Pribrezhny Park on July 2. The closing of the Forum on July 3 featured a family festival with competitions and children's games. Awards were presented to the winners of the photo competition and the football competition between various local teams under the motto of "Sports for Peace." The local television station broadcast a report about the project, and the local newspaper carried an article about the forum participants.

Next year, the Baikal Forum will continue carrying out projects near Cape Shamansky. The Baikal Forum aims are to teach youth to respect the unique natural resources of the Baikal region and to feel responsible for it, draw public attention to problems, work to preserve nature, and develop ecotourism as promoted by the International Organization of Ecotourism, which encourages people to visit places where nature is not harmed by human activity.

Note: Slyudyanka is in the Irkutsk Oblast and is a stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway near the border of Mongolia. Lake Baikal is the world's oldest and deepest lake at 30 million years old and with an average depth of 744.4 meters. It contains approximately 20 percent of the world's unfrozen fresh surface water. Home to more than 1,700 species of plants and animals, two thirds of which can be found nowhere else in the world, Lake Baikal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. 

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