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© Photo credit: www.360minutes.ru

360 minutes for Baikal

The Baikal Lake is one of the leading eco-tourism centers in our country. According to various sources each year from 500 thousand to 1 million tourists visit the lake. It means that its shores are inevitably littered, sometimes unacceptably much for a world-famous nature preserve. However there is no organization, which would be directly responsible for the cleanliness of coastal areas. What to do with the garbage?

Several years ago, a group of «En + Group» companies took the initiative into their hands. These enterprises, whose main industrial production comes from Eastern Siberia, have organized and sponsored a volunteer project, "360 minutes for Baikal". At the beginning, the project gathered dozens of people and in subsequent years there were hundreds and thousands of caring people coming from different regions in Russia. These people have decided to restore the purity of the lake shores through their shared efforts.

It all started in 2011. A hundred volunteers from the «En+ Group» staff cleared dumps at Cape Ulirba, which is located in the southern part of the Small Sea. In the six hours allotted for the action almost 500 bags of garbage were collected and taken to the landfill in Elantsy. 

So a new tradition was created: in early September, when the tourist season ends, volunteers gather together, and for six hours they clean up garbage on the shores of Lake Baikal.

Every year, this event unites more and more participants. People come not only from different parts of Russia, but also from other countries. Over five years, the "360 minutes for Baikal" has turned from a one-day effort, into an ecological marathon of events, which run throughout the summer. These events include scientific and instructional lectures, excursions, competitions and a lot of informative and educational programs.
The 2015 Jubilee Marathon was attended by more than five thousand volunteers. Among them were personnel from "EvroSibEnergo", volunteers of the educational project "Heart of the Baikal-2015", and villagers and the tourists from the shore of the lake. They were invited to participate in the action and were provided with supplies.

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In the 53 points of the coastal zone, activists gathered around ten thousand bags of garbage, installed signs urging people not to litter and paved new ecotrails. The organizers updated a specially created online map of the coast marking contamination during the summer. Dirty places on it gradually changed color: black dots turned into green as the territory was cleaned up. In the same year, "360 minutes for Baikal" was awarded with the national prize in the field of ecology "ERAECO", a diploma of the National Program "Best Social Projects of Russia" and the prize "Silver Archer - Siberia" in the category "Social Communications".

The project showed even more impressive results in this year (2016). 12 thousand people responded to the call to participate in a collective cleaning. The action was supported by famous people like the governor of the Irkutsk region, Sergey Levchenko, scientist-zoologist, Nikolai Drozdov, TV presenter Alexander Pushnoy, singer Glukoza and others.  

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But it is more important that on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the conservation system in Russia, actions were not limited by the shores of the lake, but were also supplemented with the territories of "Pillars" in Krasnoyarsk and the Baikal biosphere, in Khakas and Sikhote-Alin parks.
 

"360 minutes" became the biggest all-Russian ecological marathon: the actions took place at 126 points of the five regions in the country. The total quantity of collected bags of garbage was 27 000, with the volume of one bag being hundred liters, which is equal, in total, to 114 "KAMAZ" trucks. Robots made their own contribution to the cleaning as well, they were specifically designed by young designers from Irkutsk - participants of the "Robotics: Engineering and technical personnel of innovative Russia" program. Tourist facilities and kilometers of nature trails have been restored in the preserves, dozens of square meters of rock inscriptions were erased, tons of construction waste were exported out of the protected area and hundreds of trees were planted. In addition, an expedition was organized in June, where the volunteers removed two kilometers of fishing nets and improvised traps, thrown by poachers into the lake.

The action began by "En + Group" is an invaluable help to the Baikal region. Thousands of volunteers every year clean the shore of Lake Baikal removing the garbage and keeping the lake in a decent condition. From a small local event, an act of goodwill gradually acquired the status of a large-scale Russian ecological marathon. By participating in it, people elevated nature areas in different parts of the country and showed an example of respect for the environment. Organizers of "360 minutes" are not satisfied with what has already been achieved: the project is going to go on federal level next year, and after January 9, 2017 events in ten protected areas of the country will be held.

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