Estonia’s environmental cooperation with Russia reduced to a minimum | news – Advice Eating

Estonia has chaired the UN Water Convention since last autumn, and the work of the Water Convention office is led by Harry Liiv, Special Envoy for Transboundary Waters at the Ministry of the Environment. In a recent appearance in Vikerraadio’s Reporteritund, Liiv explained that one of the points of the convention is that countries sharing transboundary waters should work together, since nature itself knows no man-made borders.

“For example, we have a separate agreement with our largest neighboring country, under which we developed cooperation and discussed how to do and measure things,” Liiv said. “Finland and Sweden are also involved, we equipped laboratories together, etc.”

cooperation has stalled

As a result of this cooperation, experts on both sides now have a common understanding of the methodology, both sides complement each other, both sides have carried out measurements together and exchanged information.

However, as in all areas, cooperation with Russia in transboundary waters is largely suspended.

“Undoubtedly, we all have to take into account the current situation,” Liiv said. “We are closely monitoring what is appropriate at the moment and we have adopted guidelines on minimum level cooperation. Monitoring continues, but in different parts of the water body according to the programme, ie on our side of the border,” explained the special envoy. “Results are shared nonetheless, records must be kept of hazardous substances.”

However, other development activities have been halted for the time being.

The Narva River. Source: “osun”

In the case of Lake Peipus, it should be noted that it reflects the environmental situation of a significantly larger area overall.

As physical geographer Jaan Pärn pointed out, the lake’s 48,000 square km watershed area is larger than the entire Estonian territory, and only a third of the water reaching the lake comes from Estonia. A good half of the water comes from the Velikaya River, which flows into Lake Pskov just outside the city of the same name.

“We don’t really know anymore where the pollution in the large Velikaya river basin comes from,” Pärn said. “Theoretically we know that agriculture collapsed there too in the early 1990s and so pollution probably should have been reduced significantly, but what we’re seeing is that it’s increasing instead.”

That most of the pollution enters Lake Pskov and Peipus straight through the Velikaya is confirmed by both measurements and algal blooms identified by remote monitoring.

While the focus of Estonian-Russian cross-border cooperation in the early years was on wastewater treatment, it has now shifted more towards assessing diffuse pollution and its cumulative impacts.

At the same time, according to Pärn, it is quite plausible that a single polluter is able to significantly pollute an entire river basin. This is the case, for example, with the Neva, the main polluter of which is a huge chicken farm on the shore of Lake Ladoga.

Another suspect is forestry, as clear-cutting facilitates soil runoff, which also adds significant amounts of nutrients to the water.

According to Pärn, in the case of the lakes Peipus, Lämmijärv and Pskov, a perceptible water movement to the north is also clearly visible in the lakes. It is strongest in Lake Lämmijärv, where even boats drift gently but steadily towards the Narva River. In summary, the environmental condition of Lake Peipus can be described as rather mediocre and quite unstable.

The mouth of the Narva river, Narva-Jõesuu on the right. Source: “osun”

“It is clear that the lack of cooperation, monitoring and pollution reduction will not improve the situation, on the contrary,” the physical geographer warned. “The Peipus and its catchment area still form an overall system and each catchment area should be managed as a whole. A coordinated approach would certainly be best – we could identify the source of the pollution, work out measures and use our best expertise. We don’t know what’s happening on the other side of the border at the moment, it’s like in Africa where there is uncertainty about transboundary lakes.”

River Narva dry

While one of the main problems of the border lakes is pollution, the Narva River, which connects Lake Peipsi to the Gulf of Finland, has much of the riverbed now removed from its natural state as much as possible.

“Things are still very messed up there,” said ichthyologist Meelis Tambets. “If you think about it, the river’s most valuable habitat — its rapids and falls — is dry. Of course, the Peipus could always be in better condition, but the problem with transboundary waters is that they can’t be just cleaned up from one side.”

Considering that it is always best for bodies of water to be left in their most natural state, the reservoir and hydroelectric power station constructed on the Narva River have largely turned the river into a completely unnatural state that takes a toll on its as well biota.

“Things have been in a pretty bad state for decades,” Tambets said. “The Narva River’s natural salmon population is now practically non-existent. Another problem is the sturgeon, which we specifically introduced there in the hope that it would settle there permanently. And the construction of the hydroelectric power station had an even worse impact on the eel, as it was no longer able to migrate upstream and was thus cut off from a very important habitat.”

This loss of fish is particularly significant considering that the coat of arms of the city of Narva bears the image of two silver fish due to this abundance of fish. The city’s oldest known seal from 1385 also contained an image of a sturgeon.

The Narva River. Source: “osun”

A concern when assessing the state of the Narva River is the fact that few fish surveys have been carried out there to date. A recently completed survey as part of the LIFE IP CleanEST program is one of the first systematic efforts to paint a picture of the river’s diversity.

In short, the Narva River can be described as three separate bodies of water, since the upper reaches of the river, the dam and the lower reaches of the river form separate ecosystems with distinct communities, the most important indicator for assessing their condition being their fish fauna. A total of 35 fish species were recorded in the recently completed survey, the most common of which were perch, pike, Prussian carp and other fish found elsewhere in Estonia.

Notable finds included weatherfish, saberfish and asp, all protected species, but also the non-native Amur sleeper in the lower reaches of the river. The three river sections also differed in species composition, with 35 fish species in the lower reaches, 21 in the upper reaches and 18 around the Narva River dam.

Authors Mart Thalfeld and Einar Kärgenberg also noted in the study’s press release that the river’s biggest problem is the lack of stable water at its falls and gorge, and expressed hope that this problem would be addressed in a “transnational collaboration”. in the US will be resolved near future.

The restoration of the falls would be one of the largest cross-border environmental projects that could be undertaken, but so far the Russian side has been opposed. One concern cited is the fear of leaving the hydroelectric plant dry. However, according to Tambets, this is a problem that can be overcome.

“A simple solution to solving hydropower and conservation is to divert 15 percent of the river’s water to the falls,” Tambets said. “That would already solve a lot of problems. Of course you can’t do anything special with the Narva reservoir, no, so I think that will stay the way it is, but part of the solution should also be that eels can pass upstream Dam. One fine day, when Russia capitulates, we should include the condition that they also clean up the Narva River.”

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