Around the Gulf of Finland results of the first environmental bicycle campaign

On 13 August, the participants of the environmental campaign "Bicycle ring - the Gulf of Finland - 2004" made their finish in the Palace Square in St.Petersburg. This Moving Environmental Conference was organized and held by the Centre for Environmental Initiatives, Children of the Baltic with assistance of Sustainable Development Information Agency.

Map of the environmental campaign "Bicycle ring - the Gulf of Finland - 2004"

The campaign started three weeks earlier, on 24 July, from the same place in the Palace Square, by the Alexander Column. Thus, environmental activists completed the ring around the Gulf of Finland - the object of their attention and care. The 1130-km way of the bicyclists went along the South shore of the Gulf of Finland to Tallinn. There they took a ferry to Helsinki, and returned along the North shore of the Gulf to St.Petersburg.


The Gulf of Finland has heavy and complex maritime traffic with high risk of accidents. At the same time, the unique ecosystem of the Gulf is the most vulnerable part of the Baltic Sea and requires special protection.


Coastal zones in all the three countries whose shores are washed by the Gulf attract investors as profitable location for industrial and transport objects. Existing ports are being extended; new ones are under construction or are being planned. In this situation, public participation in decision-making is important to prevent damage to interest of local residents and to the environment. Therefore, AN IMPORTANT MISSION OF THE CAMPAIGN WAS EXPERIENCE EXCHANGE IN PUBLIC PARTICIPATION, ESPECIALLY IN COASTAL PLANNING. At the seminars, round tables and meetings in Narva, Sillamae, Purtse, Tallinn, Helsinki, Porvoo, Primorsk, Sestroretsk, the campaign participants and their Estonian and Finnish partners discussed the most effective forms of public participation in the three countries.


During the trip, the campaign participants visited ports that exist or are under construction in Lomonosov, Ust-Luga, Sillamae, Tallinn, Helsinki, Porvoo, Kotka, Vyborg, Vyssotsk and Primorsk.

In the Lomonosov town, the entire 11-km coastal strip is planned to be turned into the continuous port-industrial zone, without any access to the sea for local residents. Today here, in addition to the existing five ports, the Nynas bitumen terminal is being built. Also, planned here are a big port Yantar for general cargoes and a huge Finnish-Danish port industrial complex. Public hearings on these objects either were not held or were falsified. The alternative project to organize a nature recreational zone between port areas - the ornithological reserve "Kronshtadt colony wetlands" - was not included in the draft of the new General Plan of St.Petersburg without any explanations. NGOs are planning to organise public discussion of the draft General Plan.


In the new Ust-Luga port, only the coal terminal is operable yet. The port has no due infrastructure, environmental monitoring and safety divisions. The second railway is being built to the port, while the passenger train communication with Ust-Luga was terminated 1.5 years ago and never restored.


In Sillamae, the oil terminal is under construction since May 2003 (up to 12 mln t/year). In the beginning of the construction, legislation concerning public participation was violated: the decision was made without any consent of local residents. However, since spring 2004, the investor is in constant dialogue with the public, and information about the port is accessible. Hopefully, the next planned port terminals in Sillamae - for containers, dry cargoes and for passengers - will be constructed without violation of the legislation. Sillamae is lucky, because its industrial zone is separate from the residential one, and such structure is preserved in its development, leaving for resident's access to the sea and possibilities to develop coastal recreational areas. This is a big advantage of Sillamae in comparison with Lomonosov town, whose authorities do not want to develop the existing industrial zone in the southeast part of the town in accordance with the zonal planning. On the contrary, the present plans are to turn the existing natural parts of the coast into an industrial area. At the same time, it should be noted that the first oil tankers would come to Sillamae long before the end of conservation of local storage for radioactive wastes.


The Porvoo harbour had 1183 ships calls in 2003. Its turnover was 17.5 mln tons (9.8 mln tons discharged, 7.7 mln tons loaded, of which 5.5 mln tons for export, and 90 % of import was from Russia). The oil refinery in Porvoo decreases its discharges to the atmosphere with each year due to constant works on perfection of technologies. The refinery administration seeks good relations with local residents and constantly provides information about the state of the environment around the refinery. Unfortunately, at the Russian shores of the Gulf of Finland investors and authorities feel no responsibilities concerning local residents and do not take real measures to compensate the damage caused by new projects.


The Porvoo harbour, that can receive ships up 250000 tons, and works 24 hours 365 days a year, has only 62 employees. This indicates that highly technological new ports cannot provide new jobs for local population. No wonder that hopes for new jobs in Ust-Luga, Vyssotsk and Primorsk do not come true - local residents there do not have professions necessary for ports, and can be hired by chance only as security or welders.


ONE OF IMPORTANT GOALS OF THE CAMPAIGN WAS ATTRACTION OF ATTENTION TO BICYCLE AS THE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY TRANSPORT, AND TO THE NECESSITY OF CREATION OF BICYCLE INFRASTRUCTURE. The campaign participants moved along the bike route Helsinki - St.Petersburg - Tallinn, which is a part of the plan of the Eurovelo bike routes. The Estonian part of this route has signs, and is rather good for bicyclists. In Finland, the route from Helsinki to the Russian border goes along the historical King Road, which was mentioned in historical documents already in the 15th century. A considerable part of the route goes along bike paths and is very pleasant for riding. In Russia the way goes mostly along highways with heavy traffic and is unpleasant, and is often dangerous for bicyclists. Only the Kurortny and Primorskiy districts of St.Petersburg have roads with bicycle-pedestrian paths.


At the same time, the polls performed by the Centre for Environmental Initiatives in July 2004, the St.Petersburg residents have more bicycles than private cars. More than half of families in St.Petersburg own at least one bike, and each fourth family has two or more bicycles. All these bicycles are almost not used because of the absence of bike routes, bike parkings and other elements of bicycle infrastructure in St.Petersburg. Three of four polled persons are in favour of creation of bicycle paths in St.Petersburg, even those who do not have bikes.


At the round table in Helsinki, the Russian environmentalists together with Finnish NGO activists and representatives of the city authorities discussed the ways of development of bicycle routes. Finland has enormous experience in this sphere and has one of the best bike infrastructures in the world. Meanwhile noteworthy and inspiring is the fact that forty years ago the situation in Finland was almost the same as it is now in St.Petersburg and Leningrad region.

Many meetings during the bike campaign were devoted to EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT FOR ALL SOCIAL STRATA - from children to representatives of authorities. In Koporye, Vyborg, Primorsk, and Sestroretsk, the campaign participants, members of Children of the Baltic, had lessons with children, round tables for teachers and local activists. Local schools, libraries and NGOs received publications on environmental education, on environmental rights and public participation, on renewable energy sources, on the School Programme for Application of Resources and Energy (SPARE), on the Programme "River watch and Promotion of River Basins Sustainable Management."


The Leningrad region libraries along the campaign route received the new edition of the book "Our Habitat Values." Meetings with activists at the Russian part of the campaign route were devoted to extension of this book by contributions from local residents about those nature and cultural values in their local communities that experience dangerous anthropogeneous load and need special attention. NGO activists use this book as an argument in the dialogue with authorities, for protection and preservation of nature in the coastal zones.


Participants of all meetings that took place during the campaign around the Gulf of Finland supported the idea of establishing the PUBLIC COUNCIL OF THE GULF OF FINLAND consisting of representatives of the public, science and state environmental protection bodies. This idea is especially important for performing public environmental impact assessment of hazardous objects jointly by experts from neighbouring countries.

Yandex citirovania