Respublika Belarus: Nature and ecology, “Complaint Book” for the Baltic Sea

News / 2.09.2009

Translation in English:
Nature and ecology
“Complaint Book” for the Baltic Sea…
Vera APTEAGA, “Ed”
It is only possible to do it more frequently by uniting forces.
Another step on the way to solving the problems of the Baltic Sea was taken in the form of the Kemira Baltic Sea Summit which took place not long ago in Helsinki and gathered together specialists from Russia, Belarus and Baltic countries. Scientists reported on the results of the work carried out and listed the tasks for the future.
According to many ecologists, the Baltic Sea is one of the most polluted on the planet. It is not so big (its area is about 400 thousand square kilometres) but it is heavily burdened because over 85 million people live along its shores. It is these people who are the cause of the lamentable condition of the sea. And, to be more precise, their economic activity.
There are many problems, one of them is the pollution of the water area by nitrogen and phosphorous, which is caused by the ground water from fertilisers used on fields, from the municipal drainage of cities and the emissions of certain businesses. Such a “cocktail” for the sea, which even individually could be compared to organic pollutants, is disastrous. As a result there is a yeast-like substance absorbing oxygen from the water and thereby causing the death of fish and blue – green algae have now formed here. Ecologists say that in the sea there are already dead areas where there is absolutely no oxygen. The reasons for alarm for the water area are compounded by the various drainages into the sea and thousands of tonnes of oil released during transportation. The thin film of it encloses the water’s surface and also leads to a lack of oxygen… and although the situation, in comparison with what it was about five years ago, has significantly improved, all ecologists agree that: the process has been seriously neglected.
If, as regards the existing problems everyone has more or less understood, the most difficult thing is to unite the forces of all those who influence the situation in the different states. And there are 14 of them. And that is only those bordering the Baltic – Germany, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark. Other countries, which do not have a direct exit to the sea, should also be on the list. Belarus, for example.
As underlined at the summit by the representative of the ministry of natural resources and preservation of the environment of Belarus, Vitali Kulik, all the rivers in our county are cross-border ones and about half of them flow into the Baltic Sea basin. These include the Western Dvina, Neman and the Western Bug. Talking about the condition of the rivers, Vitali Kulik, in particular pointed out the analysis of the average annual content of biogenous substances in parts of Polotsk – Verkhnedvinsk in Western Dvina, proves that the problems of pollution of the waters with nitrogen and ammonia still continue.
However in relation to this, the speaker assured: All the major cities of Belarus are equipped with treatment equipment and the volume of waste water discharged has been steadily decreasing since 1995. “However, there is a need to reconstruct the treatment equipment and extend the level of treatment”, he noted. – “This would allow us to significantly improve the quality of the cross-border river water of Byelorussia and decrease the amount of pollutants reaching the Baltic Sea”.
It should be said that for a state which does not have a direct exit to the sea, the investment of Belarus in the ”piggy bank” of the pollution of the Baltic Sea is relatively small. As the representative of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Yakko Kantonen, pointed out in his speech, it amounts to 7 percent of phosphorous and 4 percent of nitrogen.
However, as it emerged, the participants in the summit were prepared to change words into actions. And there are already examples of this. In particular, the large-scale reconstruction of the treatment equipment of Saint Petersburg, the result of which has been the comprehensive treatment of 85 percent of the waste water discharged there. The project was implemented with the help of Finnish and Swedish grants. So Saint Petersburg has rightly been deprived of its status as one of the main polluters of the Baltic.
As far as Belarus is concerned, in the meantime, it is at the discussion stage of joint projects. According to Yakko Kantonen, who this year visited our country, the EBRD is thinking about a partnership with Belarus. “I suggest that Byelorussia quickly appears on the list of our partners”, he mentioned at the summit. – “There is mention of allocating non-repayable grants, which should be used in the region”. To be more precise, for planning joint projects to improve the treatment of waste water.
On the list of cities where they will be implemented there is Brest, Grodno, Minsk, Polotsk and Vitebsk.
The result of participating in the summit was announced by Vitali Kulik, it was the agreement with the major Finnish producer of chemicals for water treatment “Kemira” on the carrying out of experimental research at one of the treatment plants in our country. “If the experiment is successful”, underlined the speaker, “it can be extended throughout the republic”. Incidentally, the company has developed a unique method for processing sea-bed sediments thanks to which they are deprived of the traces of silt that can be used as fertiliser.
A basis for joint projects may also be the partnership with the Baltic Sea Action Group (BSAG) which announced its interest in cooperating with Belarus. The BSAG is prepared to support any know-how which would help to reduce the harmful effect on the water. “Our task is not gathering means but looking for those who are prepared to work for the benefit of the Baltic Sea”, underlined the representative of the BSAG, Ilkka Herlin.
Incidentally, it is in fact the BSAG who initiated the Baltic Summit to be held in February 2010, which should bring together the heads of state responsible for the fate of the Baltic Sea. The action plan for the Baltic Sea, drawn up in November 2007, – the so-called “road map” includes major tasks. For example, by 2021 (in comparison with 1997-2003) the content of phosphorous in the sea should be reduced by 15 thousand tonnes and nitrogen by 135 thousand tonnes. But for this, I suggest, we try to unite our forces.
Caption: The Baltic Sea – the most polluted sea on the planet.​