Nord Stream has begun pumping gas along the bottom of the Baltic Sea

The first line of the gas pipeline Nord Stream was launched on September 6, 2011. Its full length is 1224 km. Countries affected by the project are concerned both about Russian gas supplies and about the impact of the construction on the Baltic Sea environment and ecosystem.

Construction of the first line of Nord Stream pipeline has been completed on August 19. Almost 56% of the second line of the pipeline is also completed (approximately 680 km). Now the possibility of the construction of a third gas pipeline is being discussed at the highest level, however it finds no support in Germany today.

The Nord Stream Data and Information Fund of the Baltic Sea was set up by Nord Stream company for storing and processing the extensive information resources on ecology and ecosystem of the Baltic Sea, that have been collected during the construction of the gas pipeline. It will collaborate with HELCOM and other scientific and public organizations of the Baltic Sea region.

Our comment (Olga Senova):

Negotiations with Nord Stream company during national and international EIA procedure have been a first experience of dialogue between Russian environmental NGOs and a large carbon business. Previous attempts to contact OAO "Gazprom" (main shareholder of Nord Stream project which is also responsible for land-based Russian part of the pipeline) concerning the issues of environmental safety have failed – even the results of the EIA were not received.

Nord Stream company seemed to demonstrate openness and provided answers to our questions. However, we did not manage to figure out how the damage compensation scheme operates, and this is one of the most important issues for the Russian area of the Nord Stream project. We were faced with the fact that this question lays within the sole responsibility of the Russian government, not company. For example, the company could not find a recipient for the first tranche of the compensation payments inside the Ministry of Natural Resources for a long time. It seems that the company does pay, but it knows nothing about where the money go further and what will happen with it. And the money movements, alas, are always opaque in Russia.
When it comes to the impact of the project on the Baltic Sea – both the impacts and risks are still there, though they are significantly less than those of the oil transportation. One of the major impacts according to the experts is harm to the benthic ecosystem in the pipeline construction area. The further evaluation needs to be done in order to understand to what extent this harm will be covered by the compensation payments. For example, our German colleagues from the organization BUND believe that the real impact is much higher than the one taken into account when calculating compensation payments.

We received a response from the Ministry of Natural Resources on the inquiry from environmental NGOs, saying that all compensation payments take place in accordance with the approved documents. They focus mainly on the artificial reproduction of fish. Unfortunately they do not deal with the rehabilitation of the nature in the Gulf of Finland. Igermanlandsky Nature Reserve still has not been approved (islands and adjacent water of the Gulf of Finland), while it could be regarded as a partial compensation of the load on the nature of the Baltic Sea.

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