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River Festival on the banks of Izhora: stop phosphate pollution of the Baltic and our rivers!

May 19th: on the banks of river Izhora in Kolpino town the 8th interregional River festival was held by Friends of the Baltic together with various partners. At the festival the information action by Coalition Clean Baltic took place. It's main goal is to stop the eutrophication of our rivers, lakes and the Baltic Sea and to reduce phosphate pollution from detergents.

14 youth teams from St.Petersburg and leningrad region took part in the Festival. Each team represented the river which they protect and conduct their observations at. School 476 hosted the event. Its teachers and school kids have been studying the state of the environment of river Izhora for many years, along with the surrounding nature and regional history.
River Izhora originates from the springs of Izhora upland and then brings its waters into Neva river. Before the times of Peter the Great its banks were inhabited by Fenno-Ugric peoples, such as the Izhora, Vod and Ingrian Finns. Now there are not so many left of their representatives, but the school museum is trying to keep the evidence of their history with great care.

Along all the 73 km of its flow the river is subjected to typical environmental impact from fields runoff, industrial discharge from Izhora Factory and others. The banks are covered in garbage and there's a big influx of untreated waste waters from village houses. The phosphates that are contained in detergents of all sorts have a very strong impact on river, lake and sea ecosystems. They give a boost to eutrophication of water objects, deteriorate living conditions of water inhabitants and result in extensive growth of blue-green algae.

One of the things presented at the festival was the exhibition by Coalition Clean Baltic, where everyone could learn about how to reduce one's impact on the Baltic Sea environment, namely the impact of phosphates, by chosing detergents containing only a small percentage of phosphates. There are still not that many examples of such ecofriendly detergents in Russia yet, but nevertheless a few are available.
At the opening ceremony the kids held the River Ribbon that is made up with pieces dedicated each to its own river of the Baltic Sea basin. Over 25 small rivers are represented by the Ribbon at the moment and more are yet to come. In order to hold the Ribbon there has to be a minimum of 10 people.

The main event of the Festival was a chain of different eco-related "stations" which took place on Chukhonka island and in the city park, surrounded by the two distributaries of Izhora river.
Scientists, NGO experts, teachers and older students introduced the participants to the river's natural and historical peculiarities and showed how everyone can help the river by one's individual local actions. The teams and local people who were taking a stroll in the park could learn something new of such topics as hydrology, hydrobiology, zoology, history and tourism. They were encouraged to test their own knowledge as well.

Friends of the Baltic were there to hold the station under the slogan of "Reduce your waste! Waste to resource". We talked about how everyone can reduce one's household waste by proper everyday choices in purchasing habits and just small random lifestyle changes. Everyone can try and go without excess packaging, use natural materials instead of plastics, prefer long-lasting items instead of disposables, among other. The participants practiced their separate waste collection skills and discussed ways of recycling and reusing household waste.

The River Festival 2012 was made possible thanks to the support of Consulate General of Finland in St.Petersburg and the Coalition Clean Baltic.

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