MOSCOW (AP) — Russia's President Vladimir Putin voiced strong concern Thursday about Mongolia's plans to build a hydroelectric plant on a river flowing into Lake Baikal, warning it could endanger the world's deepest lake.
Putin said that the prospective China-funded dam on the Selenga River would cause "certain risks" to the lake in southern Siberia.
"We would like to study this issue most attentively together with our Mongolian friends and the People's Republic of China," Putin said during a meeting with leaders of China and Mongolia in Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent.
Putin suggested that Russian power plants could increase electricity supply to Mongolia instead to help meet its energy needs.
The hydropower plant project long has drawn criticism from environmental groups, which expressed fears that it could endanger the world's oldest lake, formed more than 25 million years ago.
Environmentalists warn that the Mongolian dam project would disrupt the Selenga River flow into Lake Baikal and pose catastrophic threat to many of its 2,500 species, of which more than 75 percent are believed to exist only in its waters.
Lake Baikal is 1,642 meters (5,387 feet) deep and contains about 20 percent of the world's unfrozen fresh water, the largest freshwater reservoir in the world by volume. It has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its unique character and biodiversity.
Putin met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia on the sidelines of a two-day summit of the Shanghai Security Cooperation Organization, a security alliance dominated by Moscow and Beijing. Mongolia has an observer status in the group.
The three leaders also discussed a transport corridor and other infrastructure projects.