Northern European nations have been discussing pollution in the Baltic Sea at a conference in Finland. The Baltic is considered one of the most polluted waterways in the world. The Baltic Sea Action Summit brought together the nine nations who share the coastline, and was chaired by the Finnish President Tarja Halonen.
She said: “Today some of the richest and most environmentally-conscious countries on earth live on the shore of one of the world’s most polluted seas. What a tragedy. It is clear that something has to be done and quickly.”
The Lithuanian President, Dalia Grybauskaite, agreed: “Today we are also facing a historic international challenge, which I would like to point to as as the issue of chemical and conventional weapons dumped into the Baltic Sea.”
Almost enclosed, very shallow, and fed by numerous rivers, the Baltic is a vulnerable sea.
90 million people live around its shores, many of them depending on the sea in some way or other for their livelihoods, but waste from industry, agriculture and daily life ends up in the sea.
One of the biggest resulting dangers is too much algae. Excess growth of it robs the water of oxygen suffocating other species.
Juuka Jormola, a scientist from the Finnish Environment Institute, said: “It is caused by nutrients, too many nutrients in the water, like nitrogen and phosphorus. And some of these algae are poisonous and dangerous for children who want to swim, and these algae also appear in other lakes and also in the Baltic Sea.”
In St Petersburg, a huge new water treatment station was inaugurated in 2005 – thanks in part to a 10 million euro contribution from Finland.
It is a start towards achieving the Helsinki Commission’s aim of restoring the Baltic’s “good ecological status” by 2012.