The White Book: A summary with observations (10)
Archived Articles 30 Jun 2006 Viktor VirakEWR
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VII — Environmental Damage

The introduction states:

“The environmental damage was mainly caused by the following circumstances: administrative style of centralised economic management (primarily from Moscow) which resulted in unbalanced economic development; neglecting the need for complex approach in the use of the natural resources; neglecting the need to take into account local environmental conditions; assigning the highest priority to military needs; backward technology; denial of human and family values; lack of owner's approach.”

This damage affected four main elements:

1) Agricultural land forms one third of the Estonian territory. Before the forced collectivization, the use of the farm lands was diversified. In the Soviet time, elimination of the diversity began. Crops were not cultivated in the soils best suitable for them. The requirement of re-cultivation of used lands was poorly observed in the oil-shale mining areas. There was a plan for the year 2000 to use 22,000 ha of land for oil-shale exploration — nearly half of it was arable land. Priorities were established.

2) Regarding the water situation, by the end of the occupation, there were about 1,700 water treatment facilities. Only one third of those worked. There was no chemical treatment of sewage in Estonia. In 1987, 62% of any kind of storage facilities (for fertilizers, silo, liquid manure, etc.) in agricultural enterprises did not meet established requirements, being one of the main causes for the pollution of the water resources. About 150 lakes and most of the rivers were polluted. Generally, the main sources for pollution were: mining and processing of oil-shale in Ida-Virumaa; major cities, military bases, animal breeding in large farms. Also, in areas formerly used by the Soviet army. More pollution came from missile bases, fuel tanks, pipelines and boiler-plants.

3) Handling of the mineral resources was problematic. Mining and the processing of mineral resources was wasteful because only the best layers were mined; technology was obsolete and wasteful; prices were low. For instance, in Maardu, about 30 million tonnes of phosphate rock was mined. To achieve this, up to 15 million of high quality limestone, half a million tonnes of peat, about 100 million tonnes of Dictyonema shale and up to 50 million m3 of glauconite sand was damaged or destroyed. It is expected that pollution caused by processing of phosphate will remain in Estonia's surface and groundwater for many years. The mining of oil-shale will cause comparable damage. Even pollution of the Baltic Sea is occurring, with nitrogen phosphorous compounds. (Note: according to an article in Kultuur & Elu, nr. 4, 2005, regarding the Baltic Sea pollution problems, there is a source of pollution in form of military explosives near Osmussaare and Pakri islands. Another source of pollution is very recent, of March 6-2006, an estimated 100 tonnes of heavy oil from a sunken cargo ship “Runner 4”, 1 km. from the shores of Kopli beach, near Tallinn - Postimees, March 14-2006.)

Clearly, those environmental concerns would require longstanding attention and handling in the future.

— VIII Enormous Environmental Damage Caused by Occupation Army

This is a specific continuation to the previous section.
“In the last years of the Soviet occupation, there were 1,565 military premises in Estonia in approximately 800 locations, taking up a total of 87,000 ha or about 1.9% of Estonian territory. In 1999, the direct damage inflicted by the Soviet (and the Russian) Army was estimated to be about EEK 65 b. The indirect damage caused to the health of people could not be assessed, but it should be added to this damage. As far as we know, the short German occupation did not cause any substantial pollution.”

The commentary covers four aspects:

1) On infliction and assessment of damage it is noted that during the Soviet occupation, the Red Army had a free hand regarding the location of troops and allotment of land for that purpose. There was no control over the troops. As a result, large amounts of pollutants were discharged into the environment. This problem was inherited when Estonia regained independence in 1991. In 1992, a Commission was formed (Commission for Assessment and Financing Liquidation of Environmental Damage Caused by the Troops of the Former USSR, a very suitable name describing the task ahead). Several foreign countries provided considerable financial and technical assistance. (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Germany).

2) The number of locations of military premises was substantial as noted in the introduction. Of the 1565 locations the major ones were in Aegviidu, Nursi, Värska, Pakri Peninsula, and the City of Paldiski. The pollution impact was large: in mid-1980's, the total number of military personnel was 122,480; to which their family members should be added.

3) The assessment of the pollution damage was done on 194 military grounds, total 80,000 ha. Additional work was done on 64 sites. The calculated weight of the involved chemicals was 8,257 tonnes; oil and fuels 12,038 tonnes; of plastics and rubber 44,191 tonnes. Total amount of waste 7,741,159 tonnes, of various degrees of harmfulness. The total estimated damage approximately EEK 65 billion. The related indirect damage caused to the health of people could not be assessed.

4) Military airports of Tapa, Tartu-Raadi, Pärnu-Sauga, Haapsalu-Paralepa were the major sources of technogenic pollution, aviation fuel and kerosene leaking into the ground water. The pollution had not completely ended nor been cleaned up by 2004.

A related source of pollution were the missile bases. The Soviet Army had about 50 anti-aircraft and coast defence bases, strategic medium-range missile bases, and their support-service units. The fuel component of liquid-fuel ballistic missiles was a great environmental hazard. All those sites now require technical treatment.

Then, there were two specific problem areas: Paldiski and Sillamäe. The Pakri Peninsula had been closed to Estonian residents for more than 5 decades. It accommodated several military functions: a navy unit, a missile forces unit, missile bases, a border guard unit, a training centre for nuclear submarine personnel with nuclear reactors. Indeed, it is difficult to list all the pollution sources at the Pakri Peninsula; there was also a central heating plant, and sewerage and waste-water purification facilities. Estonia inherited all those problems in 1995, when these were handed over from the Soviet forces.
(to be continued)
 
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