Though recently overshadowed in the press by the St. Petersburg governor's race, the Russian-Finnish "Northern dimension" forum on questions of society, health care and environment, which recently met in St. Petersburg as part of Finland week celebrations, is the starting point for concluding important international agreements relating to financial projects and exchange of experience between specialists from the two countries.
Journalists at the forum's recent meeting, including many Finnish journalists, asked Director of the St. Petersburg Committee for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection and Security Dmitry Golybev to evaluate the current state of the environment in Northwest Russia.
Dmitry Alexeyevich, how important is the "Northern Dimension" forum?
The partnership between Russia and Finland for the joint resolution of problems, including environmental problems and especially the financing of such resolutions, plays a large role for the city. The city never has enough money for environmental awareness and protection activities. Moreover, European leaders say that the state of the environment in Northwest Russia to a large degree reflects on the entire European continent. Western European countries, which actively use natural resources from Northwest Russia, unquestionably must share the responsibility for the environmental situation in the region. This is very important to understand. Therefore, the EU is always represented in the processes of deciding environmental problems in St. Petersburg, participates in joint projects and provides financial assistance to solve such problems.
Over the past 5-7 years Saint Petersburg has actively cooperated in the area of international projects for protecting the quality of surface water. And the majority of these projects have been realized jointly with Finland. The main project of this environmental partnership is the construction of the Southwestern Purification Center (Yuzos). The Finns, the Northern Investment Bank, Sweden and the EU have all given financial assistance to the project. It is the largest project directed at the environmental protection of the Baltic Sea.
In addition, there is also more positive financial news for us. Beginning in the third quarter of this year, local companies have started to compensate the city for polluting the environment. All of this money will be allocated towards concrete environmental programs and projects.
Russia and Finland share many important natural resources. How do you evaluate, for example, the environmental state of the Gulf of Finland?
Both the city administration and myself as the chairman of the Committee for Environmental Protection are deeply troubled by the water quality in the Gulf of Finland. Saint Petersburg, which is the second largest city in Russia with a population of approximately 5 million, is the endpoint of the ecological system which includes almost all of Northwestern Russia. Yes, our city creates a large demand on the environment and natural resources of the region, and contributes to the pollution of the region. The city is also located at the exit and entry of the large water ecosystem of Lake Ladoga - Neva River - Gulf of Finland - Baltic Sea, and receives a great deal of transit from the region as a result.
Nevertheless, St. Petersburg is doing a lot to reduce pollution levels of the Gulf of Finland. I can name the first-phase measures on questions of environmental protection and the rational consumption of water resources, which can directly solve many of the city's problems. In 2005 the construction of Yuzos will be completed. Yuzos will provide treatment of approximately 90% of Saint Petersburg's sewage and drastically reduce the annual amount of pollution runoff into the Gulf of Finland. Moreover, the treatment of the remaining 25% of the city's sewage at various sewage treatment facilities will allow us to treat almost 100% of the city's sewage.
In addition the city is contributing to and encouraging the construction of local purification centers and water supply systems at Saint Petersburg companies. So we envision that the situation will radically improve in the next ten years.
How is the construction of the St. Petersburg defensive levee influencing the Gulf of Finland? Does a threat to the gulf exist from the levee?
I authoritatively state that the levee does not pose a threat to the gulf. Saint Petersburg is more likely threatened by the current absence of quality hydrotechnical structures with water treatment systems. If there will be enough money in the budget, the city intends to complete the construction of the levee in 2008.
What is the current situation in St. Petersburg with regard to drinking water?
That is a difficult question. Water for our consumption undergoes thorough purification at the city's drinking water treatment facilities. It is purified in correspondence with stringent government standards for drinking water. At this point, I want to add that in many ways Russian standards are more stringent in regard to the quality of drinking water than European standards. Therefore, water leaves the stations in compliance with all sanitary and hygienic requirements.
However, the water supply network, which delivers water to the consumer is very old. Therefore, during the course of transportation of water from the facilities to the consumer, the quality of the water worsens to a certain degree. Nevertheless, water is completely safe for consumption. The city sanitary service and a special section of the city's water department control the composition of the city's drinking water. Still another problem, which is connected with the pollution of the environment, is the dump at Krasny Bor:
As you know, the toxic waste dump at Krasny Bor receives non-utilized toxic waste from Saint Petersburg and Leningrad Region. Indeed, potential threats exist from the dump. Krasny Bor continues to receive waste in an open dump at the present time. This is especially troublesome because the dump is located near the water collection system of the Neva River. Moreover, at the present time the resources of the dump are practically exhausted. But, nevertheless, we will not allow the situation to become catastrophic. Beginning next year, we are planning the start of operation of a toxic waste treatment facility at Krasny Bor. The facility should be able to process up to 18 thousand tons of toxic waste per year. This should liquidate the threat of pollution to the Baltic Sea. Moreover, by the end of 2004 several joint projects directed at environment protection should be realized at the site on grants totaling more than USD 10 million.
News source: Rosbalt
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City news archive for 16 September' 2003.
City news archive for September' 2003.
City news archive for 2003 year.