North-west russian NGOs are uniting for protection of small rivers and local nature values

How can we improve environmental situation in small river basins of North-West Russia and save nature and cultural values? What NGOs and public can do for that?

These questions where discussed by participants of Inter-regional seminar "Development of public participation in the river basins management and prjtection of local habitatl values in the Baltic Sea region".

The seminar was held in Lomonosov on 8-9 January by Friends of the Baltic NGO within the CCB "RIVER WATCH" program and regional program "OUR HABITAT VALUES".

Experts from Neva-Ladoga Basin Administration, North-West Russian Department of Federal Inspection of Nature Use, Baltic Federation of Fishermen, Russian Science Hydrotechnical Institution, more then 25 leaders and NGO activists and teachers from St.-Petersburg and Leningrad region, Velikiy Novgorod and Novgorod region, Vologda region, Pskov region, and representatives of mass-media took part in the seminar.

North-west Russia is the area with very intensive industrial pressure to nature. For a long time attention of investors, small business and private companies was attracted to the coastal zones and river banks, where they got easy access to nature resources and transport infrustructure. NGOs, taking care of nature conservation, took under public control a lot of local nature values and rivers: Luga, Gladyshevka and Roschinka, Karasta, Lebiazhia, Kikenka, Strelka, Slavyanka and Tyzva, brooks and springs on the South and North shores of the Gulf of Finland; rivers Sodima, Shogash, Suhona, Losta, and another in Vologda oblast; rivers Lovat', Msta, Volhov, Pola and so on in Novgorod oblast; river Velikaia and small rivers in Pskov oblast, come coastal zones of Gulf of Finland, Ladoga and Onega lakes.

The most typical problems in the river basins, discovered by participants were: water pollution from industry and householders, illegal dump sites, cutting down trees and bushes, destroying river banks, unlegal dams, non-working or uncorrectly working hydrotwechnical constructions.

Last years much more illegal private buildings have appeared in the water protection zones, prevented public acess to water objects.

Participants gave special attention to the worsening ecological situation in the Gulf of Finland region.

Inhabitants can not use their rights on the good ecological status of environment, lost possibility to make good use of water resources as a national property.

NGO's activists together with state experts discussed possibilities for co-operation for more effective actions and efficient reaction on environmental violations. They have stated, that public, NGOs and youth groups, making environmental monitoring, can provide state nature protection bodies with urgent and unique information on alarm situations.

Russian legislation gives public and NGOs right for access to environmental information and public participation. Most of people don't know about these rights and how to use it in practice to protect there own environment. NGOs try to develop their scills and distribute positive experience. At the seminar Friends of the Baltic presented experience on organizing public hearings in Lomonosov on bitumen terminal, on establishing coasta nature reserve "Wetlands of Kronkolony", shared information on public hearings in Kaliningrad region on oil terminal, organized by EcoDefence. Baltic Federation of

Fishermen showed example of public participation and consolidation of fishermen and nature protection activists, stopped together the dangerous for nature plan to blow up ice in Ladoga Lake in Spring 2003.

Participants discussed the most effective forms of public participation, importance of environmental education for children; education for general public on environmental rights; froms of cooperation with various starta of society.

At the seminar participants agreed about correctons and proposals to the New Water Code of Russian Federation.

The most significant result of the seminar is official signing of Agreement about Public Movement "North-West Russia River Network" (NWRRN). Establishing this Public Movement was initiated by members of the CCB River Watch network a year ago at the Friends of the Baltic seminar "River watch network for sustainable development in the Gulf of Finland region". This idea was supported by participants from Kaliningrad and Velikiy Novgorod. A year later NGOs from Vologda and Pskov regions joined this Movement.

Participants has agreed about Agenda of the NW network, information and methodical cooperation, common applications to NW nature protection bopdies on alarm environmental problems.

The first common public action of the NWRRN "Green Coast - Clean Wave" will be performed in May - June 2005. It will be organized in each region by members of NW Russian Network. Action results and will be sent to NW Department of Federal Inspection of Nature Use and distributed among mass-media and authorities.

For more information please contact:

Vera Ovcharenko,
Co-coordinator of "River Watch Network"
Tel.: +7 (813) 76 73 210
Fax: +7 (812) 315 66 22

Olga Senova,
Council chairwoman
Tel./fax: +7 (812) 428 06 58

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