MOSCOW, December 25 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Natural Resources Ministry has proposed building an ecologically-themed tourist park on the site of a former mill infamous as the worst polluter of the world’s largest lake, it said on Wednesday.
The Baikalsk Pulp and Paper Mill, in operation since 1966, has long been criticized by environmental activists for spewing pollutants into Lake Baikal – the world’s largest freshwater body of water, located in the heart of Siberia.
The ministry wants to replace the mill, that finally shut down for good this week, with a park and museum complex called The Baikal Center for the Promotion of Nature, according to ministry documents seen by RIA Novosti.
In June, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the government had decided that the mill, which was in bankruptcy, should be closed for good. The last workers were expected to leave their jobs at the plant on Wednesday.
The mill is located on the southern tip of Lake Baikal, which holds 20 percent of Earth’s unfrozen fresh water. In August a plan to boost tourism in the region was announced in an effort to offset the loss of 800 jobs in Baikalsk, a town of just 13,000 people.
The first stage of the project would cost $1 million, the ministry said, and could come from a charitable fund for environmental conservation.