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River Watch training on the seashore


Right the day before the World Environment Day, Friends of the Baltic held a training for young environmentalists and educators on the Gulf of Finland coast. The event was dedicated to ways of conducting research/public monitoring of water objects, as well as to green solutions to reduce the human impact on the water environment. The training was held as part of the international project “Local Research and Education Hubs- key for sustainability education” (No.CBSSPSF/SC 042015/4), implemented with the support of the CBSS Project Support Facility.
Among the participants were members of the expedition organized by the youth education center Peterhof together with Biotop environmental center (of the House of youth creativity of Petrogradsky district). The expedition was stationed on the Gulf coast next to Krasnaya Gorka fort, close by Lebyazhye settlement. The expedition was preceded by a basic eco-camping training, where the kids learned more about ways of camping that do not harm the environment and had a cleanup of the adjacent coastal area.
The training that was held by Friends of the Baltic together with experts from Ecocentrum, Peterhof youth center and Biotop center, was focused on ways of observation and research, as well as simple solutions that help us keep our water bodies in good condition.
The participants learned to define the pH of water, as well as its hardness and nitrate content. Comparative analysis of pH and hardness of water in different point may give us signals about the presence of sewage in the natural water. The high nitrate content may signify the presence of wastewater from animal agriculture, toilets, or nitrogen-based mineral fertilizers.
The training included a section on modeling the organization of a private house; a farm and a vegetable garden close by the river bank/sea shore. The participants had a task to find solutions to handling wastewater from their households/bath houses, to dealing with manure from farm animals, to maintaining their vegetable garden without toxic pesticides and fertilizers getting into the water.
Everyone had a chance to discuss ideas of different biological treatment plants, composting of organic waste, methods of organic agriculture, as well as correct placement of coastal buildings and constructions in order to minimize the harmful discharge into the water.
A special section of the training that was of big interest to everyone was dedicated to the ways our daily actions may harm or help the rivers and the sea. For example, choosing phosphate-free detergents may help reduce the inflow of phosphorus into the water objects, thus reducing the scale of eutrophication. By not buying plastic bags and avoiding excess packaging, we reduce the number of possible plastic waste on our shores and in the water. By preferring locally produced goods, instead of those imported from far away, we do not pay for unnecessary transportation that is based on the use of fossil fuels. Apart from its impact on the climate, long-haul transportation of goods also results in emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere, and those pollutants will eventually make their way into our water systems.
A relatively new problem that is of acute importance nowadays is microplastic that is contained in many hygienic products (toothpaste, shampoos, etc.). It is the result of degradation of plastic waste and accumulates hazardous substances in the water. It may be eaten by sea creatures and end up on our tables!
The main idea that everybody understood was that everything that happens in river basins has an impact on the rivers and the sea. This is why the functioning of cities and villages, its industry and agriculture, as well as our daily behavior, may either help or harm the rivers and the sea.
All the participants received a copy of the River Watch manual as a present, along with booklets on microplastic, organic waste treatment, as well as small eco-themed keepsakes.

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