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Baltic Sea gas pipeline would pass near environmentally-sensitive areas in Russia
Nord Stream submits environmental impact assessment
The routing of the natural gas pipeline that is to be set up from Russia to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea passes near sensitive habitats for birds, seals and fish. However, it would not actually cut through important conservation areas, busy shipping routes, or military areas.
An environmental assessment by Nord Stream, which is planning to build the pipeline, says that the environmental impact would be mainly local and temporary.
The assessment does not include information sought by Finland on issues such as the location of old war materiel, or the concentrations of environmental toxins in the eastern Gulf of Finland. Russia has so far not supplied additional reports on the effects which might extend to Finland.
Of the options for the routing, the greatest concern for Finland involves the Russian island of Gogland (Suursaari), which is located south of the Finnish city of Kotka.
Nord Stream, supported by Russia, wants to run the pipeline north of the island, just seven kilometres from the Gulf of Finland National Park.
The Finnish Ministry of the Environment says that the proposed routing is based mainly on paperwork, and not on any study of conditions on the sea bottom.
The Nord Stream environmental assessment says that the proposed northern route around the island would interfere less with bird and seal habitats, for instance.
Furthermore, on the south side there are military areas, as well as shipwrecks on the bottom.
About 800 ships have sunk south of Gogland since the 18th century, and there are many wrecks of considerable importance from the point of view of cultural history.
The assessment does not give a clear picture of the harmful substances on the sea bottom. Little toxic sediment is believed to be on the bottom on the north side of Gogland, while high levels of zinc and lead are believed to be in the sediments on the south side.
There are many nature preserves near the planned routing on the Russian side, including nesting sites and resting places for birds.
There is also an important area for the Baltic ringed seal.
Dredging, digging, laying the pipeline, and other work would stir up the sediments on the bottom, possibly releasing nutrients and toxins into the water, which would speed up the eutrophication process, at least temporarily.
However, the report states that most of the digging would take place in Russian waters, in a bay at the beginning of the pipeline, where a dyke is to be built. The area is far from Finnish or Estonian territory.
Finnish officials are to take a stand on granting permission for the pipeline to run through the Finnish economic zone. Permission requires the consent both of the Finnish government and the Western Finland Environmental Permit Authority.