Environmentalists trying to stop Undva port

  • 2000-08-31
  • Aleksei Gynter
TALLINN - The Estonian Ornithological Society, fearing damage to the coast, took legal action against the Kihelkonna local government in order to prevent the building of the Undva port. At a preliminary hearing on Aug. 22, the parties agreed to discuss the issue out of court and the case was temporarily suspended.

The Kihelkonna communal council approved the preliminary plans for building the Undva deepwater port this April. The society, however, found that some laws were broken by the council's decision.

"Our complaint was based upon several laws, namely the law on protection of beaches and coasts, the law on prudent development, the law on planning the building et cetera. Besides, the international convention of Rammsari was also violated, although it was ratified by Estonian Parliament," said Mati Kose, project manager from EOU.

The Rammsari convention is an international agreement on protecting water territories.

The Estonian Ornithological Society so far seems to be satisfied with the result of their complaint.

"A great deal the legal action was started. Now we have time to reconsider our strategy and discuss the issue with the Kihelkonna communal council once again," Kose said.

The defendant, the Kihel-konna communal council, offered to suspend the case. The next hearing is set for Oct. 17.

"I hope we (the Kihelkonna local government) and EOU can find a compromise settlement without a second meeting at the court," said Aivar Kallas, chairman of the Kihelkonna local government.

Kallas said he suggested the case be suspended because it would become waste of money and time.

"But we would not lose the case anyway. Those five or six of the EOU's suggestions to change the project were quite deviated from the subject," added Kallas.

According to Jaak Lokk, director of the Undva Harbor Limited Company that is working on the project of the port, EOU would never win the case, because their primary arguments were based on EU laws not yet ratified in Estonia.

"The EOU admitted it does not even have sufficient information about the port project. They (EOU) would never win the case. Probably the parties will meet half-way before the next hearing. But anyway, poor peace is better than good war," said Lokk.

Lokk said EOU still has an opportunity to hinder the building of the port, but its legality would be doubtful.

Estonian environmentalists helped EOU bring legal action. Peep Mardiste, coordinator of Friends of the Earth Estonia, said their concern about building the port relates mostly to the Steller's eider, a seabird that may suffer if the port is built.

"We have nothing against new jobs for the Saaremaa people and investments in Estonian economy," said Mardiste. He added that the port should be somewhere else, not in the Undva harbor.

The Ministry of Environment is carrying out additional surveys to find if the port can be transferred somewhere else. The survey is scheduled to be completed by year's end.