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Net migration rate map

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The population maps focus on current patterns of the settlement and demographic situation in the Baikal basin. They relate to a complex of underlying social, economic and ecological factors.

The population maps of the Baikal basin are based on the statistical data of the Federal State Statistics Service of the Russian Federation and National Statistical Office of Mongolia. Also important were the data from population censuses of Russia and Mongolia and the data of the current measurements of demographic events. The authors used statistical sources to calculate indicators for territories included into the Baikal basin.

The distribution of settlements within the Baikal basin is quite irregular. There are four locations of the regional concentration of the population. In Irkutsk oblast, the main settlement belt along the Trans-Siberian Railway stretches from the western border of the region up to Lake Baikal. Here, there are many agricultural settlements and the majority of large administrative and economic centers, where manufacturing sector dominates the economy. Irkutsk – a large multi-functional center – tops the group of these settlements. Only sparsely populated the Olkhon and Slyudyanka districts and part of the Irkutsk district fully lie within the Baikal basin. In the direct vicinity of Lake Baikal, but in the Angara basin, there are cities of Irkutsk and Shelekhov. In the Republic of Buryatia, there is a major settlement area around Ulan-Ude with a maximum concentration to the south of the city. Geographic differences in the specialization of settlements have emerged. Settlements involved in manufacturing and transportation are overwhelmingly dominant along the Trans-Siberian Railway. In Southern Buryatia, there are mostly agricultural settlements. In Zabaikalsky krai, there are three settlement networks: settlements involved in manufacturing and transportation located along the railway; mining settlements near deposits; and agricultural settlements located south of Chita in the forest-steppe and steppe zone. In Mongolia, the population is mainly concentrated in the central region – from Ulaanbaatar in the south to Sukhbaatar in the north. Three largest cities of the country and more than a half of its population are located in this area. The other territories of the Mongolian part of the Baikal basin are sparsely populated.

Distribution of the population and the degree of the settlement of the territory are displayed on the maps “Density of population (as of 1.1.2013)”; “Density of rural population and population size of urban settlements (as of 1.1.1989)”; “Density of rural population and population size of urban settlements (as of 1.1.2013)”.

The Baikal region belongs to sparsely and unevenly populated territories. The population density of the Baikal basin is 17 times lower than the world’s average of 53 persons/km2. The population density in the Russian part of the basin is 2.9 persons/km2, which is nine times lower than in the European part of Russia (26 persons/km2).

The intra-regional differentiation of settlement patterns is stipulated by several spatial gradients of the population density decrease, with the main gradient leading from the center (capitals and administrative centers) to the periphery. Other gradients are also present in particular territories. Thus, in the Russian part of the basin, the population density tends to decrease as it goes from the south to the north and from the west to the east. The Russian-Mongolian border for the most part rather separates than unites the areas of settlement, except for one direction. The core of this direction is the Selenga Valley, where an area with a highly dense population has formed between Ulaanbaatar and Ulan-Ude.

The territories around large cities, like the regional centers Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude and Chita, are most densely populated. Along with the areas with dense population, there are also virtually unpopulated territories of tens of thousands square kilometers in area. The distribution of rural population is less contrasting than the urban one. The main clusters of rural population are located in the forest-steppe and steppe zones, where the density of population may reach 10-20 persons/km2. Rural population is mainly concentrated in the south of Irkutsk oblast (around Irkutsk) and in the central part of Buryatia (south of Ulan-Ude).

The major cities of the Russian part of the basin grew along the transportation lines. Thus, 11 out of 13 towns are located along the railways. Only Zakamensk and Kyakhta are located away from the railroad. In the Mongolian part of the basin, the connection of urban settlements to transportation lines is less pronounced with only five out of 12 towns being situated on the railways.

The map “Dynamics of the population size (1989-2013)” shows considerable changes in the population size – a situation, where a high concentration of the population in a few largest centers is followed by depopulation of vast territories.

In the Russian part of the basin, there were two clear patterns of the population size dynamics from 1989 to 2013. Firstly, the decrease of population tends to be more pronounced from the southwest to the northeast. Secondly, the population dynamics in regional centers (Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, and Chita) and their suburbs is relatively positive. Population growth is observed only in the Irkutsk, Shelekhov, and Olkhon districts of Irkutsk oblast, Ivolga district of the Republic of Buryatia and Chita district of Zabaikalsky krai. The record level growth of population (over 160 %) was recorded in the suburban Ivolginsky and Irkutsk districts. The biggest drop in the population takes place in the localities that are classified as districts of the Far North, with the Muisky and Severobaikalsky districts of the Republic of Buryatia loosing over half of their population.

In the Mongolian part of the Baikal basin, population growth is registered on over a half of the nation’s territory. The main Mongolian cities – Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, (244 % to the level of 1989), Erdenet, and Darkhan are the fastest growing cities. The Khovsgol and Selenga aimags also demonstrate a significant growth of population. The population in the four aimags of Arkhangai, Zavkhan, Tov, and Khentei decreases due to an outward migration of residents.

The contrasting nature of the population dynamics within the Baikal basin is quite distinct:

– The Russian part of the Baikal basin is characterized by the type of the population dynamics, where an outward migration is several times higher than a natural population decline;

–        The Mongolian part is characterized by the type of the population dynamics, where a natural increase of population prevails over inward migration.

Territorial specifics of demographic development are shown on the map “Natural increase of population”.

In the Baikal basin, different modes of reproduction of population exist along with a wide variety of quantitative parameters of demographic processes. In general, it is possible to identify two types of population reproduction. Thus, all of Mongolia, Tuva and part of Buryatia are characterized by an expanded type of reproduction with high birth rates, average mortality, and a significant natural growth. The Baikal region of Irkutsk oblast, Zabaikalsky krai, and most of Buryatia is characterized by a narrow type of reproduction with low birth rates, high mortality, and a natural population decline or insignificant natural growth. The annual natural growth of the population in Mongolian aimags is 17-19%. In the Russian part of the basin, natural movement of the population led to mixed results, where 23 municipalities showed population increase, while 10 municipalities had natural decline. With an average natural population increase of 1.4 per mille, there were significant variations – from the decline ranging from -5 to -6% (in the Petrovsk-Zabaikalsky, Irkutsk and Olkhon districts) to the increase exceeding 10 pro mille (10.4% in the Dzhida district, 12.1% in the Kizhinga District, and 16.0% in the Tere-Khol district). The natural population increase in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar was 17.2%, while the increase in the Russian regional centers Ulan-Ude and Chita was 4.3% and 3.4%, respectively, with the decline of -2.7 % in Irkutsk.

The map “Urbanization of the territory” shows the proportion of urban population in Russian municipal districts and Mongolian aimags. The share of urban population exceeds 74% of the entire population and is composed of a few territories. The level of the urbanization of the population exceeds the world’s average (51%) by nearly one and half times, however, the level of the urbanization of the territory is low. Urban territories mainly include settlements located along the railways, as well as densely populated administrative centers. In the Mongolian part of the Baikal basin, only Ulaanbaatar and the Orkhon and Darkhan-uul aimags are highly urbanized, while the remaining nine aimags have only a small share of urban population (17.5%-34.9 %). In Mongolia, administrative centers of every aimag must be urban settlements. However, in Russia, the legislation does not mandate municipalities to have urban settlements. Therefore, in the Russian part of the basin, as of 2013, 14 districts did not have urban population at all. Some settlements (Barguzin, Ivolginsk, Kyren, and Khorinsk) rejected their urban status in the process of municipal reforms of the 2000s. The population of Mongolian towns within the basin nearly doubled in 1989-2013, with the population of Ulaanbaatar growing from 540.6 to 1,318.1 thousand people. The population of the largest cities in the Russian part of the basin did not change that much: in Irkutsk, it grew from 572.4 to 606.1 thousand people, in Ulan-Ude – from 352.5 to 416.1, while in Chita it declined from 365.8 to 331.3 thousand people.

The main results of migration processes in 2010-2012 are shown on the map “Migratory increase of population”.

In Russia, including the Baikal basin, the last two decades witnessed a significant decrease of migration activity of the population. However, outward migration from the region remains high and reproduces almost annually from the mid-1990s up to now. Population movement has mostly become intra-regional – the intra-regional migration turnover makes about 2/3 of relocations in the Baikal basin. The intra-Russian interregional migration causes migration losses, while migratory relationships with the CIS countries contribute to a considerable growth of population.

Redistribution of the population between the constituent parts of the Baikal region is intensive including some tens of thousands people annually. In 2010-2012, on average 66.5 thousand people arrived, and 58.6 thousand left. In the Baikal region, the average annual migration increment was 7.9 thousand people. However, it was due to the growth in the attractive for migrants cities of Irkutsk and the Irkutsk district (+9.3 thousand people), Ulan-Ude (+3.4 thousand people) and Chita (+2.9 thousand people). The total growth of the population in these cities was 15.6 thousand people. The rest of the region experienced the outflow of residents totaling 7.7 thousand people. Migration redistribution leads to the growth of the population in regional centers and their suburbs. Only 10 municipalities had a migratory growth, while the rest 24 showed a decline. The intensity of migrant arrivals is highest (twice as high as average) in the suburban Irkutsk and Ivolginsky districts, while the intensity of departures is highest (twice as high as average) in the undeveloped Dzhida, Kizhinga and Muisky districts. Against this backdrop, the Russian part of the Baikal basin has two migration poles – the Irkutsk and Dzhida districts, where an average annual migration balance is +47.4% and -46.0%, accordingly.

In general, the majority of territories is characterized by a progressive outward migration, which is compounded by unfavorable structural features of the outflow (with young and educated groups of people leaving the region). The results of migration movement are clearly expressed in terms of the center-periphery relationship: there are three areas of migration growth in the Russian part of the basin (Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, and Chita with their suburban districts) and one in the Mongolian part, which combines the capital Ulaanbaatar and the aimags lying to the north of it –  Selenge, Orkhon, and Darkhan.

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Non-profit environmental organizations map

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Environmental non-profit organizations

The environmental well-being of the Baikal basin is largely determined by the activities of environmental non-governmental organizations (eco-NGOs). The main purpose of eco-NGOs is to protect nature. They see the foundation for sustainable development of society in nature preservation. Their effectiveness is determined by personal qualities and civic engagement of their activists and, especially, their leaders.

The number of eco-NGOs significantly increased in the 1990s, which was determined by state reforms in Russia and Mongolia and the growing interests of citizens towards the state of the environment.

Eco-NGOs operating in the Baikal basin differ by their territorial status (international, national, inter-regional, regional and local) and organizational and legal forms (community associations: community-based organizations, community-based foundations, community-based institutions, and community movements; nonprofit organizations: autonomous nonprofits, nonprofit foundations, nonprofit partnerships, associations (unions, alliances) of legal persons, and nonprofit institutions).

In Mongolia, the creation of eco-NGOs is mainly associated with the efforts to protect the Selenga and its tributaries from negative impacts of mining, construction of hydro-power plants, and the transfer of the Orkhon water to arid areas of the Gobi desert. Eco-NGOs are also created in all river basins, where open-pit mining operations are active. The largest community associations are the “United Movement of Rivers and Lakes of Mongolia” and “Nature Protection Coalition of Mongolia”. Eco-NGO campaigns usually involve 300-8,000 people.

In the Russian part of the Baikal basin, the organizations defining community-based environmental activities aimed to protect Lake Baikal are the community-based organization “All-Russian Nature Conservation Society” and the public organization “Russian Geographical Society”. Branches of these organizations are located in all the regions of the Baikal basin. In 2012, among the participants of the project initiated by the All-Russian Nature Conservation Society and entitled "Clean Waters of the Baikal Region" were over 60 environmental organizations created at educational institutions of 23 districts of Irkutsk oblast. Members of the Russian Geographical Society include both private individuals and legal persons. A widely known member of the Russian Geographical Society is the “Fund for Protection of Lake Baikal” established by Metropol Group of Companies. A lot of work is done by the nonprofit organization "WWF - Russia" and other all-Russian organization.

As of the beginning of 2013, the total number of registered eco-NGOs in Buryatia, Zabaikalsky krai and Irkutsk oblast was about 100 organizations. The overwhelming majority of them are community associations and community-based organizations.

In Buryatia, the most famous eco-NGOs include regional community associations "The Buryat Regional Association on Baikal", "Baikal Information Center Gran", "Baikal-Eco", "Ecological Association LAT", "Ecological and Humanitarian Center ETNA", "Ecological center The Planet and Delta", "Ecoleague", nonprofit partnership "The Great Baikal Trail - Buryatia", and a local environmental NGO "Turka". In Irkutsk oblast, they include regional nonprofit organizations "Baikal Environmental Wave" (BEW), "The Baikal Ecological Network Association", "Baikal Environmental Patrol", Inter-regional community-based organization "The Great Baikal Trail", private non-state research institution "The Baikal Center of Field Studies “Wildlife of Asia”, nonprofit partnership "Protecting Baikal Together", and the Irkutsk city community organization "Children’s Ecological Union". In Zabaikalsky krai, there is a regional public institution “Public Environmental Center “Dauria”. There are also many other successful organizations.

Regional and local eco-NGOs actively attract volunteers from different countries to implement their projects, so quite often these projects become international.

Information about the work of the most active eco-NGOs operating in the Russian part of the Baikal basin is provided in public reports on the state of Lake Baikal and governmental reports on the state and protection of the environment in Buryatia, Zabaikalsky krai and Irkutsk oblast. Brief descriptions about them in the form of short essays are also presented in the reference book entitled “The White Book”, prepared by the eco-NGO “Ecoleague” and published in 2010.

Among the organizations whose head-quarters are located outside of Russia and Mongolia, the Russian branch of the international non-governmental non-profit organization Greenpeace conducts a very active work on Lake Baikal.

In the Baikal basin, eco-NGOs conduct research, educational, and outreach activities among the population, boost its environmental activity, and involve local communities in the decision-making process. They organize community oversight and participate in the preparation and discussion of laws aimed at optimizing natural resources management. They take part in public hearings on the development of deposits and construction of industrial facilities and participate in the creation of protected areas. They also develop eco-tourism, conduct cleaning works on the lake’s shores and other activities, including the "Days of Baikal". Often, eco-NGOs receive federal or regional funding by winning competitions of socially-oriented projects.

Eco-NGOs help unite the efforts of government, science, business, and society in finding solutions of environmental problems. They become members of public environmental councils in the regions and conduct conferences, round tables, telethons, presentations, seminars, courses, summer schools, etc. In 2013, BEW conducted an international conference in Irkutsk and Listvyanka ("Rivers of Siberia and the Far East",). Also in 2013, the Russian Society for Ecological Economics jointly with the Irkutsk branches of the Russian Geographical Society and All-Russian Nature Conservation Society conducted a conference in Irkutsk entitled “The management of ecological and economic systems: Interaction of government, business, science, and society”.

The creation of eco-NGOs’ coalitions and international cooperation is extremely important for reaching the goals of sustainable development of the regions. It determined the creation of a network of eco-NGOs in Buryatia and Mongolia called "Friends of Baikal" and a long-term cooperation with the US organization "Tahoe-Baikal Institute" to share best practices in natural resources management in the watershed basins of Lake Baikal, Tahoe, Khovsgol, and the Great Lakes. Other joint projects promoting sustainable development of communities of different levels are also being implemented.

It is mostly due to the work of eco-NGOs that Lake Baikal was inscribed on the list of World Heritage Sites, the Baikal Natural Territory was zoned, over 700 kilometers of trails were built, and the operation of several environmentally hazardous production facilities, including the Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, was stopped. On the site of this Pulp and Paper Mill, in December 2013, Russian government decided to create a nature protection complex, which will include a museum and exhibition, as well as information and educational facilities. In order to manage this complex, the government jointly with the Charitable Foundation for Environmental Protection "Green Future" (NF, Moscow) created ANO “Expocenter “Reserves of Russia””. Often, the results of the work of eco-NGOs become the foundation of major federal and regional programs.

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Pasture degradation map

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Pasture Degradation

Under the conditions of a complex geomorphological structure of the territory, uneven particle-size distribution, and often thin profile of soils, degradation processes are dominated by linear and sheet erosion. Based on the intensity of development of water erosion and deflation processes and, consequently, different disturbances of the soil profile, as well as according to the results of evaluating the areal development of all types of erosion processes, three degrees of land degradation are shown on the map in shading: slight, moderate, and severe. They were determined by the share of the main categories of eroded soils as a percentage of the agricultural lands area. Twenty-four percent, up to 42%, 47%, and more than 60% of developed lands are eroded in varying degrees in the Baikal region, in the territory of the Republic of Buryatia, in the Olkhon district, and in some areas of Mongolia, respectively.

As a result of a special analysis and assessment of the pasture condition, three categories of the degree of their degradation are distinguished in the map “Pasture degradation”, namely: low, moderate, and high. The map’s explanatory note explains the diagnostic features of pasture degradation. The predominant part of pastures experiencing moderate anthropogenic impact is classified as slightly or moderately disturbed.

In general, the map is the basis for preventing the development of dangerous geo-ecological situations in the region, organizing environmental activities, and optimizing the management of the biogeochemical environment of the population’s life-sustaining activities.



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Nechaeva, E. G., Belozertseva, I. A., Davydova, N. D., & Sorokovoy, A. A. (2009). The map of degradation and contamination of the soil cover. Scale 1:5,000,000. Electronic atlas of natural resources, economy, and population of the Baikal Region. Irkutsk: V.B. Sochava Institute of Geography SB RAS.

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Degradation of ecosystems. (2005). In E. A. Vostokova & P. D. Gunin (Eds.), Atlas of Ecosystems of Mongolia. Moscow. p 44.

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