Gas pipeline through contaminated Baltic given go-ahead

| 19th February 2010
Gas pipeline route
Planned route [in green] of the gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea (Image: Nord Stream AG)
Environmental groups in Germany, Finland and Denmark claim gas pipeline will devastate the Baltic Sea's already fragile marine ecosystem

Three legal challenges are being brought against the construction of a major undersea gas pipeline between Russia and Germany.

The €7.4 billion Nord Stream project, heavily promoted in recent weeks by Russian prime minister Vladmir Putin, has now been approved by all the Baltic countries throug whose territorial waters the pipeline will pass.

Construction is expected to start as early as April this year.

Legal action

However, campaign groups in three of the countries that have approved the pipeline are attempting to delay construction, claiming environmental impacts have not been properly assessed. 

Separate cases being brought in Germany by WWF, in Finland by the Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF) and in Denmark by the Estonian Naturalists Society (ENS), all allege the permits for the project should not have been issued by the national authorities. 

Jüri-Ott Salm, CEO of the Estonian Fund for Nature, said they were concerned about the toxic sediment that would be released by the construction of the pipe and clearing of munitions dumped in the Sea.

He said alternative routes overland had not been properly considered and that ELF wanted a new environmental assessment made.

Munitions dump

Ivar Puura from the Estonian Naturalists Society, said its case was specifically about munitions dumps in Danish and Swedish waters - which it claims have not been properly assessed.

'If Nord Stream AG [the consortium building the pipeline] is concerned on the environmental safety, it should take time to finish the incomplete assessments of environmental impacts.

'The appeal is seeking the delay in construction and communicates the warning of scientists that there are too many open questions on known risks and uncertanties, that should be answered before the works are launched. Otherwise, the risks to human health and ecosystem services are too high,' said Puura.

A spokesperson from Nord Stream said €100 million of environmental surveys had been undertaken and that any complaints were directed against the national authorities rather than them.

'So far we are not aware of any details that could lead to a delay.  We are looking forward to a timely start to work in April.'

Useful links
Nord Stream
Estonian Fund for Nature (ELF)
Estonian Naturalists Society (ENS)

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