Lake Douhaye Wildlife Reserve

Historical background

The state hydrological reserve "Lake Douhaye" was established on 16 August 1979 on Lake Douhaye in Hlybokaye District, Vitsebsk Voblast.
It was designated national hydrological reserve in 2007 to conserve the natural habitats of rare plant and animal species included in the Red Book of Belarus.
The reserve's total land area is 644.45 Ha.

Lakes in Hlybokaye District

Hlybokaye District has 106 lakes. Some are very unique for Belarus. Lake Douhaye is Belarus' deepest lake, with a maximum depth of 57.3 m. Lake Hinkova is the third deepest lake in the country (maximum depth is 43.7), with a range of unique natural caves. Although lakes occupy just 3% of the district's territory (significantly less than in Braslau District, with 6%), their importance as a natural, recreational and economic resource is enormous. The West of Vitsebsk Voblast, of which Hlybokaye District is a part, is called the Belarusian Lake area, and is included in the Euro-region "Baltic Lake District".
The need for sustainable use of Hlybokaye's lakes is highlighted by their location at the watershed of Europe's three great rivers the Zakhodnyaya Dzvina, Nyoman, and the Dnyapro/Berazina.
Nearly all of the Hlybokaye District's lakes are dwelling lakes, created some 13,000 years ago by the Valdai Glacier. The water in the lakes is circulated mostly via the planetary hydrological cycle, and a significant proportion via the small cycle. Many of the district's lakes had been filled by the outwash from the retreating glacier.
The lake and its catchment area are mostly a closed and conservative system. The lakes are the lowest lying points in the terrain, constituting the base levels of erosion. As such, they absorb all of the run-off and waste produced in large volumes by human economic activity. Thus, the lakes are subject to various degrees of anthropogenic impact. Lakes located in or near urban areas are the most vulnerable to such impact.
Protected lakes
Lakes with unique hydrological regimes and relic wildlife populations are the most at risk of ecological damage from human activity. This risk is among the highest for Lakes Douhaye and Belaye, designated as national landscape reserves. Lake Hinkova, too is a designated conservation area.
Lake Douhaye, likened to Lake Baikal for its clean water, is a truly unique water body. The tectonic fault around Hlybokaye was smoothened by the Valdai Glacier and filled by its melt water. After more than 10,000 years, the lakes have preserved many of the characteristics typical of a periglacial lake. The water is remarkably pure and transparent. The depth of sunlight penetration reaches 7 metres. The purity and transparency of the lake's water make it a good habitat for the European smelt (Osmerus Eperlanus), inhabiting the ideally pure lakes of Karelia and Finland, and found in no other lake in Belarus. Absence of temperature variations at the bottom of the lake and slow water circulation have been key factors in preserving the populations of several relic species, such as Gymnocephalus, Palassus freshwater shrimp, and a number of relic algi species. There is still much to be discovered about the lake. Divers have reported multiple deep caves, flattened stone panes and multiple other objects that have not been explored.
There is some evidence of geotectonic phenomena near lake Douhaye, suggesting that intensive compensatory elevation may be taking place in the area.  Old-growth oak forests can be found along the lake's banks, surviving from the times of a warmer and damper climate during the Vikings era in the ninth and tenth centuries.
Commercial fishing in the Lakes Douhaye and Belaye is incompatible with their status as protected areas, but the areas around them can be used for green tourism and recreational activities like hiking, cycling, boating and horse riding that do not damage the fragile ecosystems. Construction of large hotels is similarly unacceptable around the lakes due to high potential for ecosystem damage. Instead, accommodation for tourists can be provided by creating a network of rural estates (Bed and Breakfasts). Two estates are already active in the area. One is operated by the peasant farm holding Svidava (leasing the farmland around the Lake Svidava), and the other, Zhyvitsa, is run by a local resident. In future, agricultural estates could also create and maintain recreational facilities around Lakes Douhaye and Svidava.
Camping grounds and sites are also a viable accommodation option for small tourist groups and individual tourists. Camping grounds have already been set up in the wildlife reserve "Halubau Sad". The reserve also maintains a recreational area with a view of the Lake Douhaye, and has designed tourist trails and guided wildlife tours. Halubau Sad has been assigned a coordinating role in the management of the Lakes Douhaye and Belaye for tourism and recreation. Some of the areas around the two lakes are managed by the Experimental Forestry Facility "Dzvinskaya". The facility has plans to secure a license to operate in the tourism industry and design tourism activities and products to be offered in its territory. One option is to create a safari park between the Lakes Douhaye and Sho, with open-air cages with wild animals, and observation tower, a natural history museum and a tourist welcoming programme.
Although Lake Hinkova does not have protected area status, it still has a number of unique landscape features. Sharing the same trough with Lake Douhaye, Lake Hinkova appears to be an extension of the former. It is quite possible that the two lakes had once been a single water body. Similar in origin and structure to Lake Douhaye, Lake Hinkova has a higher flow-through rate, and is also more vulnerable to the negative environmental impact of human activity. The pure and transparent waters of the lake make it a good tourist attraction and recreational area. One potential tourist attraction are the natural caves in the vicinity of

Sakhnovichy Village.

The softness of the sandy rocks that form the cave walls make the caves vulnerable to water erosion, calling for a number of precautions to ensure tourist safety. Fences need to be put up to prevent tourists from going inside the caves, and a safe pedestrian path needs to be built. In future, Lake Hinkova could be designated a local landscape reserve. This would require a decision of the District Council and Executive Committee.
Other lakes
The district's numerous smaller lakes have good ecosystem resilience, with relatively large water volumes and high flow-through rates. They can sustain commercial and recreational fishing, sapropel mining, and tourism and recreational activity. The area around these lakes have been inhabited for thousands of years since the bronze age, and many of the small villages here date back to the 10th to 13th centuries. This makes the area quite rich in historical heritage sites and architectural monuments. This area is the most suitable for building hotels, holiday resorts and other large-scale facilities for tourists.
Some of the area's most notable smaller water bodies are Zalesskiya, Bobruischinskiya and Pluyeuskiya Lake Systems, as well as the Lakes Plissa, Mnyuta, Tsarkovischa and Pyatrouschynskaye Lakes, among others.
Zalesskiya Lake System lies in an area of outstanding beauty, immortalised in the works of the travelling artist Yazep Drazdovich, a native of this place. The system consists of the lakes Muraushchyna, Belaye, Byarozauskaye, and Karpiki. Muraushchyna and Belaye Lakes are some of the most interesting tourist sites, boasting the famous Zalessky Park located between them. The park was planted in the 18th century around the palace estate owned by the Molle Family. The surviving structures include the palace foundation, the 19th century horse stable built in the neo-gothic style, the dormitory for domestic servants, and the ruins of a water mill. The park once had over 40 exotic tree species, but is now completely abandoned. Most of the exotic trees have been cut down, and the stables have been crumbling, deprived of proper conservation. The park is nevertheless a stopping point in Belarus' first horse riding trail for tourists, and is a part of the international recreational cycling route system. Not far from the park is another tourist attraction, called Mamchyna Horka ('Mother's Hill), a high flat-topped hill with a nice view of the surrounding landscape. A story linked to this hill inspired another native of this land, M. Mashara to write his well-known rhymed epic. Tourists would be well advised to visit the nearby Bushyiki village to inspect a 19th century church built on the banks of Lake Douhaye. The lake and its surrounding territory is being run by the Belarus Society of Hunters and Fishers, which offers fishing places to paying fishing enthusiasts.
An animal farm near Lake Muraushchyna, a branch of Hlybokaye Poultry Farm, is a potential polluter, as with its run-off capable of reaching the lake.
Bobruischinskiya Lake System consists of five beautiful lakes -  Belaye, Kryvoye, Ksendzovo, Akunyova, and Babrova. Lakes Belaye and Babrova are managed by the Dzvinskaya Experimental Forestry Farm. The lakes are fairly similar, and are suitable for commercial and recreational fishing. They are also potential tourist attractions. However, there are no plans to build any major tourist infrastructure objects, both due to lack of investors and because the best potential locations are in private hands. Their owners, mostly from Minsk City, use those properties as holiday resorts. The areas around the lakes are good for family recreation and tourism activities, such as hiking, cycling or horseback riding. Plans are in place to arrange resting places on the banks of the Lakes Douhaye and Kryvoye (managed by the Dzvina Experimental Forest Farm. In future, the banks of the lakes can be good locations for spa resorts, particularly around the area's several sulphurous water springs, such as the St. Johns Spring outside Bobruischinskiya Village Church.
The Plissa lake conglomerate includes the lakes Plissa, Vyalikaya, Mnyuta and Belaye (Padsville).
Lake Plissa Vyalikaya (managed by Dzvina Experimental Forest Farm) is one of the best places in the neighbourhood for holiday makers and tourists. Proximity to Polatsk (just 60 km away), abundance of pine forests, numerous lagoons and sand beeches all make the lake particularly attractive to locals and visitors. The two existing preventoria and the resort area managed by the Dzvina forest farm use only a fraction of the lake's potential as a holiday making destination. A road needs to be built to the ancient settlement site Svila-1, a potential tourist attraction. Unoccupied land areas along the banks of the Lake Plissa can be allocated to construction of tourism infrastructure objects, subject to existing environmental regulations.
Lake Mnyuta is a relatively small water body. However, several nearby tourist attractions make it an interesting destination for the potential visitor. These include Zadarozhsky Cathedral - the oldest in Hlybokaye District, Yakubenki Palace Estate (the birthplace of the family of the famous Russian writer Alexander Grin), Vyaletsky boulder stone (a natural monument and a historical site), and the palace estates Mnyuta 1 and Mnyuta-2 (formerly called Panama), with a water mill and a dam.
Lake Aloisberg is located within the limits of Padsville Village, and is vulnerable to pollution with household and industrial waste. Lake Aloisberg is connected to Lake Belaye via the Rivers Shosha and Sana, which are in need of cleaning and ronoff control. The leveed half-island in the lake could be converted in a good recreational area with a pier, beach and bathing facilities, benches and a sports ground. Because this area is used as a location for community events, systematic waste collection services are needed. To this end, solid waste containers should be installed, and emptied regularly. Construction of a paved lane along the lake's banks near Padsville and the nearby boat station could attract large numbers of tourists, by enabling them to explore the beautiful rugged banks, and enjoy numerous activities such as rowing, catamaranning and water jet skiing. When improving the recreation areas, care will be taken to preserve the old oaks that grow along the lake's banks and in the valley of a nameless rivulet falling into Lake Aloisberg near the park in the middle of Padsville. Lake Belaye, connected with Lake Aloisberg via the river Sana is a small but beautiful water body with elevated banks, partially covered by pine forest. Potential recreation sites are found on the Southern banks of the lake near Padsville. The pine forests on the North were once the site of a tuberculosis dispensary, and may present the risk of infection.

Lakes Sho, Iver, and Psuya form the Psuyeva lake group.

Potential spa resorts

Lakes whose water or bed silt have medicinal properties should be mentioned separately as potential spa resorts. Some of these lakes have high content of hydrogen sulphide, or significant amounts of sapropel in the bed silt, making it usable as therapeutic muds.
Sapropel can be found in the bed silt of the Lakes Chechelevskoye and Servechm among others. Lake Chechelevskoye is managed by the company AgrobusinessConsult, which has plans to offer sapropel baths to visitors at its holiday resort Checheli. The medicinal properties of the water in Lake Servech are determined by high content of organic acids emitted from the peat bed. The suitability of this lake as potential spa resort has not been considered to date.
High hydrogen sulphide content has been found in Lake Kryvoye (a part the Bobruischinskiya Lake System) and Lakes Chartova and Chornaye (located in the immediate neighbourhood of Lake Akunyova). Further studies are needed to assess the therapeutic potential of these water bodies. 

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