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Brackish water and shallow coastal areas characterise the Baltic Sea, which is bordered by nine countries: Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany and Denmark. About 16 million people live on the coast, and around 80 million in the entire catchment area of the Baltic Sea.
Well-developed countries, with some fairly large cities, a variety of industries, and modern agriculture and forest management surround the Baltic. Ever since industrialisation started here in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the Baltic Sea receives steadily increasing amounts of pollutants. These waste substances come in the form of municipal and industrial effluents, as well as from farming, forestry, and discharges from increasing shipping.
Pollution from industry around the Baltic Sea has a substantial impact on the environment throughout the Baltic Sea region. A large portion of the problem stems from industries located in the countries in transition, mostly in the eastern part of the region. Many of the industries in these countries are still using technology installed when the plants were originally constructed. Industries found to be most damaging to the environment are the pulp and paper industries, chemical industries and metal producing/processing plants.
Agriculture introduces pesticide residues to the atmosphere and water. The drainage of coastal wetlands for cultivation adds to the nutrient load to the Baltic Sea. New agricultural strategies must be developed for the countries in transition in the Baltic Sea catchment area. As agriculture intensifies, the overuse of chemical fertilisers and pesticides must be avoided and alternatives developed. Large-scale livestock husbandry should also be abandoned.
The transport sector contributes between 40-80% of the total emissions of nitrogen oxides. Emissions of nitrogen oxides from the transport sector have not decreased markedly in any of the countries around the Baltic. Shipping poses another potential hazard. Oil tankers carry over 100 million tons of oil and oil products per year. Spills can release large amounts of oil into the marine ecosystem, often with devastating results. A great number of oil spills are detected in the Baltic Sea Area every year either due to accidents or illegal operational discharges. The increasing number of illegal operational oil spills can be explained by increased shipping, increased number of sub-standard ships, and outdated oil and waste reception facilities in a number of countries.
Municipalities account for almost half the number of pollution problem areas around the Baltic Sea. Sewage and wastewater treatment are the main issues for this source of pollution. At present, considerable improvements have been achieved in the countries in the northern and western parts of the Baltic region in the treatment of municipal, and combined municipal and industrial wastes.
In the Baltic region a separation is visible between the EU member states and the formerly centrally planned economies. In the Baltic region in general very common problems in the field of integrated coastal zone management include the absence of overall national legislation specifically for coastal zone planning, the absence of a legal definition for the coastal zone, problems of vertical integration between governmental levels and administrations, weak co-operation and communication between various levels of government and a lack of integration of sectoral interests at a local level. In the countries in transition social and economic problems often put off the solution to environmental issues. Common problems of these Baltic States in need of attention also include a relatively low level of environmental awareness, lack of financial means and purposive investments, problems caused by changing land ownership and few possibilities for public participation in coastal management and decision making. In a desire for co-operation in order to face the key environmental problems of the Baltic region several international initiatives have been taken
The environmental situation in the Baltic Sea has improved since environmental pollution measures were enacted on a large scale by the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea several years ago. Substantial reduction in pollution load from countries like Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Germany since then has helped to improve the condition of the Baltic Sea. However, in the formerly centrally planned countries, the legacy of the past is monumental. Although industrial restructuring is taking place, it will be many years before environmental effects are more visible. As industrial enterprises in those countries become economically more efficient, environmental improvements will to a large degree be side effects of the overall change, provided that the principles of Best Available Technology and Best Environmental Practice are fully recognised and applied.
In 1996, the Prime Ministers of the Baltic Sea Region took the initiative to develop an Agenda 21 for the Baltic Sea Region aiming at sustainable development encompassing economic, social and environmental aspects. The Agenda 21 for the Baltic Sea Region was adopted in 1998 and is a joint, long-term effort by the 11 countries of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS). The emphasis is on regional co-operation, and the work is focused on seven economic sectors, spatial planning and, since spring 2000, also on education. The Baltic Sea Region is the first region in the world to adopt common regional goals for sustainable development. Implementation is in progress (see further www.ee/baltic21/)
In 1992, an intergovernmental programme on multilateral cooperation in spatial planning and development was established. It was guided by the Conference of Ministers responsible for spatial planning and development (Fifth Conference in Wismar, 20 - 21 September 2001) and focused on the implementation of a Vision And Strategies Around the Baltic on Spatial Development which adopted by the Ministers in 1994 (Towards a Framework for Spatial Development in the Baltic Sea Region). VASAB 2010 is a spatial development action programme which identifies key themes for transnational co-operation for sustainable spatial development (see further information see www.vasab.org.pl).
The Helsinki Convention (HELCOM)
Issued to protect the marine environment of the Baltic Sea, the first Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area was signed in 1974 by the coastal states of the Baltic Sea at that time. It was the first international agreement to cover all sources of pollution, both from land and from ships as well as airborne. In 1992, a new Convention was signed including a new article (Art. 15) on nature conservation and biodiversity, which entered into force on 17 January 2000. The present contracting parties to HELCOM are Denmark, Estonia, European Community, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Russia and Sweden. The Helsinki Commission has established a system of more than 60 Baltic Coastal and Marine Protected Areas and established management plans for five large coastal lagoons and wetland areas along the south and south eastern Baltic coasts (for further information see www.helcom.fi).
Integrated Coastal Zone Management is now under the remit of the Helsinki Commission Nature Conservation and Coastal Zone Management Group, commonly referred to as "HELCOM HABITAT". This group aims - among other things - to promote the development of coastal zone management plans as instruments of resource management for environmentally sustainable development in coastal and marine areas. In order to reach these goals, the Group will review and observe the status quo of biodiversity conservation in the Baltic Sea countries, identify gaps and deficits, and develop strategies.
ICZM in the Baltic
The current, individual, national State-of-the-Art reports (click the individual countries), written by EUCC, have been compiled as a result of a commission from HELCOM - Habitat. They contain the latest information about important aspects of ICZM and have been peer reviewed by eight of the nine countries.
Each country file has been written in a standardised way to enable the information to be compared and contrasted. Each report describes the national coastline and explains the formal definition of the coast and any setback lines policy. This is followed by chapters on coastal management & spatial planning in the coastal zone, and coastal & marine environmental and nature conservation policy. For each of these three chapters, the involved authority, the policy developed and the legislation in use is delineated. Tourism & recreation and coastal defence are discussed within the framework of economic developments, important sectors and trends. At this point, the current state of ICZM is considered in relation to the legal framework and completed, ongoing & related ICZM projects. A short, independent evaluation is then added. Finally, NGOs involved in ICZM are listed as are the reference sources for the compilation of the document.
The information drawn together in the document is the first time that such data has been brought together in one document. These State-of-the-Art reports of the nine riparian States of HELCOM allow some interesting comparisons to be made and conclusions to be drawn about ICZM in the region:
Table 1. Length of the Baltic Coastline
Table 2. Definition of the Coast
|DK||No formal definition. There is a 3km inland planning zone from low water mark|
|EE||Protected coastal strip 100-200m with building forbidden|
|FI||No formal definition. Width varies from 50-200m|
|DE||No formal definition. 100-200m inland protected strip|
|LV||Protection belt of 300m, also 300m seaward. Belt of 5-7 km with limited economic activity|
|LT||No formal definition|
|PL||No formal definition|
|RU||Coastal protection zone of 100m, also 100m seaward. Further limited activity belt 2-3.7km wide|
|SW||Protection zone 100-300m inland, also offshore.|
Table 3. Setback lines policy
|Country||Setback lines policy|
|DK||300m strict beach protection zone. At sea restrictions (fishing/hunting) 100m, 500m & 1000m from shore|
|EE||No setback lines policy|
|FI||No setback lines policy but development controlled 100-200m from shore|
|DE||No setback lines policy|
|LV||No setback lines policy|
|LT||No setback lines policy|
|PL||Protected coastal strip 100-200m inland, some areas 1000m. Is a 2-5km limited activity belt|
|RU||1000m zone outside urban areas (Kaliningrad)|
|SW||No setback lines policy|
Despite this official lack of definition, it can be seen (Table 4) that all but one country (Lithuania) has, nonetheless, described landward protection zones. Whilst the conditions within these protection limits vary from country to country, it does appear that a belt of 50 -300 m is strictly protected throughout most of the Baltic coastline. Four countries have further defined a line extending up to 2-7 km from the strict protection limit where some restrictions are still in force. (Table 4). On the seaward side too, there is some affordable protection. Here, five countries have some sort of protection in place 100 m seawards, in some cases extending to 1 km. These include the three countries with the longest coastline ensuring protection of some 85% of the marine near-shore area (Table 4).
Table 4. Overview of Protected Zones
Landward Protection (m)
Seaward Protection (m)
100-200 (up to 1000
The responsibility for coastal management tends to reside within the Ministry of the Environment (or equivalent). However, there are often other ministries involved dependent upon the specific issue at hand (Table 5).
Table 5. Responsible National Coastal Authorities
|DK||Environment (ICZM); Defence (oil); Industry (tourism); Transport & Works (defence)|
|FI||Environment (planning); Transport & Comm. (shipping); Agric & Forest (water resources)|
|DE||Transport, Building & Housing|
|LV||Environmental Protection & Regional Development|
|PL||Environment; Housing & Urban Development Office|
|SW||Environment; Agriculture (fisheries)|
In all cases, ICZM is handled, at the local level, at county and municipality level (Table6).
Table 6. Responsible Local Coastal Authorities
|Country||Local Authority Level|
|LV||Regional, district and local|
|LT||County & Municipality|
|PL||Regional, district and local|
|SW||Regional & municipality|
However, when it comes to legislation specifically covering ICZM, no country has developed explicit legal instruments (Table 7). This, in fact, reflects the situation throughout Europe.
Table 7. Specific ICZM Legislation
|Country||Specific ICZM Legislation|
ICZM has, therefore, to be covered through existing legal means. Table 8 shows that the predominant national instruments are Planning and/or Building Acts. This is not surprising given the implementation of ICZM will always require planning decisions. However, the lack of environmental legislation that needs to be consulted will not always ensure that biodiversity and environmental issues will necessarily be covered in any ICM planning applications. Also of interest is that the legislation pertaining to ICZM is all recent, having been passed in the last decade.
Table 8. Relevant legislation for ICZM
Protection of Nature Act, Environmental Protection Act
|EE||Planning and building Act||1995|
Land Use & Building Act
Nature Conservation Act
Spatial Planning Act
Law on Spatial Development Planning
Regulation on Physical Plans
Environmental Protection Law
Law on the Construction of Buildings in the Coastal Zone
Administrative law Violation Code
Physical Development Act
Environmental Law Act
Act on Nature Conservation
Land Use Code
Urban Development Code
Planning & Building Act]
Economic Zone Act
Although there is no specific legislation pertaining to ICZM which must use existing policies and instruments, all countries are, without exception, engaged in ICZM work. This is not systematic within any country, let alone within the region, but it is clear that the lack of legislation need not hamper the development of ICZM in the region. The ICZM work that is being conducted is summarised in Table 9. This assessment is largely subjective since there is no clear definition of what constitutes an ICZM project. The inclusion of a project here has been determined by whether elements of the ICZM process have been implemented during the project. However, whilst different researchers may assess on-going and related ICZM projects differently, it is clear that ICZM projects are taking place. The apparent discrepancy between the total number of projects taking place and the number of projects is because some of the projects are multinational and are mentioned in all countries where that project is being implemented.
Table 9. ICZM projects in the Baltic States
The main challenge now for HELCOM is to take the implementation of individual ICZM projects in each of the member States to a systematic approach at an international level. In order to begin this process, HELCOM Habitat have commissioned EUCC - The Coastal Union to present a document to the next meeting of the Group (May 2003) detailing a set of Principles which will underpin ICZM work in the future. This Common Approach will build upon the EU ICZM Strategy but take it further. When completed, the document will also be posted at this site.
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