The Day of Baikal was established in 1999, and since 2015 by the decision of the Legislative Assembly of the Irkutsk region, this festival is celebrated on the first Sunday of September.
Lake Baikal is the deepest and oldest lake in the world. It is the largest natural reservoir of fresh water and a unique ecological system, protected by 1999 federal law “On the Protection of Lake Baikal”. In 1996, Baikal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“Baikal is amazing, and not surprisingly, Siberians call it not a lake, but a sea. Water is unusually transparent, so that one can see through it, as through air; the color is pale turquoise, pleasant to the eye. The banks are mountainous, covered with forests; total pitch-dark wilderness around. The abundance of bears, sables, wild goats, and all the wild stuff … ”
The length of the lake is 620 km from north-east to south-west, the width is from 24 to 79 km. The largest well-known depth of Lake Baikal is 1637 m. The area of the lake surface is 31 722 square kilometers, which is approximately equal to the area of countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands or Denmark. By the flat water area, Baikal is ranked eighth among the largest lakes in the world. The volume of water in the lake is about 23 thousand cubic kilometers – more than in the Baltic Sea or the combined five Great Lakes of North America (Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, Ontario).
Lake Baikal contains about 1/5 of world reserves of headwaters (excluding glaciers and ice of Antarctica, Greenland and other reserves, where the water is in the solid state) and more than 4/5 of fresh headwater reserves in Russia. Each year, the lake produces 60 km3 of pure, biologically active water. Via the Angara and the Yenisei, this water gets into the oceans. From space, the relief of the Baikal bottom is visible to depths of 500 meters.
The Secchi disk, a water transparency standard, can be seen in different parts of the lake at a depth of 40-45 meters. The main properties of this water can be briefly described as follows: there are very few dissolved and suspended mineral substances, very few organic impurities and a lot of oxygen. The secret of this phenomenon is a tiny endemic crustacean epishura. Each year, the “nurse” filters a half-meter layer of water, recycling all the dead organic matter, as well as providing the water with oxygen.
Bai-Kul – Baikal – means “rich lake” in Turkish. The lake and its coastal areas feature a unique variety of flora and fauna. There are about 2,600 species and sub-species of aquatic animals in Baikal, more than half of which are endemic, i.e. found only in this reservoir.
Over time the Day of Baikal has got a nationwide and worldwide recognition, becoming an important and popular date in the calendar of environmental events. Some new and good traditions have been formed: lots of public, scientific, cultural, sporting events, art contests and quizzes are held throughout the year under the auspices of the Baikal Day.