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Coalition Clean Baltic Annual Conference 2012 in Belarus

The annual CCB conference 2012 was held in Belarus, in Ratomka village, in the suburb of Minsk. The main focus of the conference was laid on the following subjects: utilization of the agricultural waste, load of phosphorous to water ecosystems, role of peetlands in CO2 balance and Belarusian experience of the restoration of the peetland. Food production and consumption patterns in transboundary context were also discussed together with green consumerism approach.

“Friends of the Baltic” was involved in two working groups on CCB priority sub-areas. River Watch workgroup, where Friends of the Baltic was a Lead Party, considered methods of public involvement to river watch and basin management. River Watch program successfully managed by CCB member-NGOs, serves as an effective tool for environmental education for youth and raises public awareness among citizens. Very often NGOs work as alarmists, drawing attention of the authorities to “hot” environmental problems, that need to be addressed as soon as possible.

According to Olga Senova, chair of ”Friends of the Baltic”, river basin management approach is not implemented in the non-EU countries yet. Because of this, environmentally protective measures, applied without the basin approach, are often not efficient. One of the examples can be a water cleaning downstream in the rivers without addressing sources of pollution upstream. This can occur due to the fact that the upstream and downstream territories are subject to different administrative bodies. In this case the basin approach is the only efficient way for the authorities to deal together with the problem affecting the whole river system.

The workgroup on sustainable coastal development was focused on coastal planning and coastal “hot” spots. On the shores of the Gulf of Finland this issue has a special importance – industrial load to the coastal area (new ports and their transport/industrial infrastructure) is very high here, but there are no corresponding measures for nature protection. CCB has published a report on the current coastal situation and recommendations from NGOs for the improvement of this situation. Green World and Friends of the Baltic NGOs had provided information on the coastal situation and sustainable ways of development for the Russian part of the Baltic Sea. Friends of the Baltic believe that in general development plans industrial and port areas should be mandatory combined with nature protection areas, such as recreational zones, parks and nature reservations. Thus the balance between economical benefits and sustainability can be reached.

Participants discussed the possibilities and needs for continuing Baltic Green Belt project, joining efforts of CCB members for coastal nature conservation. Members suggested a regular updating of the CCB map of the coastal hot-spots and following the current construction on the coastline and shore areas.

Conference participants laid a special focus and promoted a discussion on the activities within the current CCB main priority areas, which are: campaigns for reducing the phosphate emissions in the Baltic Sea through choosing detergents without or with a small amount of phosphates; reducing of the industrial farming which produces high load of nutrients that leak through the groundwater into the sea; and promotion of organic farming and organic eco-labeling especially in East-European countries.

In Russia Friends of the Baltic act for reducing the phosphate load to the Baltic Sea with the help of River Watch and other actions. A public exhibition was created by Friends of the Baltic in Ecocentrum in St.Petersburg telling how the P-load can be reduces by choosing the right detergents and applying a right amount of it when doing dishes or washing. Friends of the Baltic also monitor the situation concerning accident of P-emissions to the Luga river near Phosphorit plant in the Leningrad region.

The issue of utilization of the farm waste through biogas production was also discussed much at the conference. In the Russian part of the Baltic Sea region the huge amount of animal farms are still running in an inefficient way, polluting soil and water sources. In the Leningrad region the majority of farms still keep the manure in the open storages. Despite the willingness of the farms to implement a biogas technologies for waste utilization, none of such projects is being conducted now.

NGOs from many countries not only show the harm for the Baltic Sea caused by the farm waste, but also the opportunities for sustainable utilization of this waste, which benefits both for subcontractors and for the environment. This issue was largely discussed at the Finnish-Russian seminar organized by Friends of the Baltic in co-operation with Consulate General of Finland in St.Petersburg.

Within the conference Belarussian NGOs organized for conference participants the field trip to a restoring peetland Bartenikha. A researcher from BirdLife Belarus organization, Anna Chuvashova, told to the participants about the joint Belarussian-German project on peet restoration and showed their monitoring sites on the Bartenikha peetland.

According to Olga Senova, this issue is highly relevant for Russia also. Widespread draining of the wetlands for land cultivation and construction has decreased biodiversity, led to river shallowing and more frequent forest fires. Regarding the latter issue, the need to restore Russian wetlands was recognized by the experts. The data of Belarusian NGOs on the role of wetlands in maintaining the carbon balance is another argument, affecting not only the national environmental and social issues, but also the international climate policy.





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