Millions allocated toward pollution-detection equipment

  • 2006-02-13
  • By TBT staff
TALLINN 's The Interior Ministry has allocated 758 million kroons (48.4 mln euros) for oil-pollution detection equipment and facilities, the daily Postimees reported. The money will be spent over the next few years.

Experts, however, say that an efficient marine-pollution prevention plan would require at least two billion kroons, or possibly even three billion kroons.

"For such money, apart from meeting the minimum requirements, we would be able to acquire backup equipment like our northern neighbors [the Fins] have," said Silver Vahtra, chief of the pollution-fighting department at the Border Guard Board's maritime unit.

Last week, the Interior Ministry drafted a plan worth 758 million kroons to purchase the most urgent equipment. The largest individual expenditure 's for two pollution-control vessels - will reach 600 million kroons.

Two pollution-detection radars, which will be used for Border Guard patrol aircraft, are estimated at 58 million kroons, and repairs on the pollution-control ship Kati will cost 20 million kroons.

The ministry has earmarked 7.7 million kroons for monitoring flights, 35 million kroons for the acquisition of pollution-control equipment and 21 million kroons for the establishment of bases in the ports of Parnu, Kunda and Kuressaare. The establishment of a logistical base in Tallinn would cost 19 million kroons.

Interior Minister Kalle Laanet said the ministry's goal was to hold public-procurement tenders by this summer. The necessary money would be taken either from the government's contingency reserve, a supplementary budget or income from the sale of property.

The sudden move for pollution-detection equipment was spurred by last month's oil spill, which killed as many as 35,000 birds and tainted kilometers of Estonian coastline. At the time, the government was castigated for its slow response to the environmental disaster, which is the worst in the Baltic state's history.

On Feb. 10, Environment Minister Villu Reiljan reprimanded the head of the Environmental Inspectorate, Ain Purga, as a disciplinary punishment for his inadequate performance following the spill.

The supervisory control found that Purga failed to immediately inform the Environment Ministry 's as required - upon learning of the oil-slick, spokespeople for the ministry said.

It was also discovered that Purga did not take steps to forward adequate information. In defence, the head of the environmental watchdog explained that it took time to establish the extent of the pollution.

According to Purga, he was not convinced the spill was a major environmental threat until the evening of Jan. 30.

In a written explanation, Purga agreed that the Environmental Inspectorate had not informed the ministry as required, and that he groundlessly assumed the ministry was already aware of the seriousness of the situation.

The supervisory probe into the oil-slick detected on Estonia's northwestern coast on Jan. 28 and 29 established that the inspectorate did not inform leaders of the Environment Ministry, including the minister, general secretary and head of the crisis regulation team, of the disaster in time, and failed to provide a clear evaluation of the damage.