Company destroys coastline, authorities helpless

  • 2001-04-12
  • BNS
TALLINN - A real estate developer in Kakumae near Tallinn has destroyed 1.5 km of unique coastline, but the authorities cannot find a way to punish the company because the development plan had all the required endorsements, a report by the environmental inspectorate has established.

"Everything has been legal and we have no grounds to hold anyone responsible," Rita Annus, head of the Environment Ministry's legal department, told the daily Eesti Paevaleht.

She said that it is possible to morally condemn what the developer has done, but nothing more.

"It is unheard of that the destruction of one-and-a-half kilometers of cliffs is regarded as a fully natural thing, as if no one is to blame," geologist Kalle Suuroja said. "We have to admit one more time that the power of business and money has outsmarted the preservation of a unique feature of the environment."

At the construction site, nothing is left of the Kakumae bluff, which has been sculpted into a gentle slope leading to the sea over a stretch of 1.5 kilometers. Further inland, where houses were planned, the land now resembles a lunar landscape.

Suuroja said that the cliff at Kakumae was unique because it was sandstone. The only place in Estonia where a sandstone bluff can still be seen is at Suurupi.

It appears from the environmental inspectorate's report that the development plan of the housing estate was endorsed five years ago by the Environment Ministry, then headed by Villu Reiljan, the current leader of the People's Union. The developer, AS Hestlinger, had also obtained the required endorsements of the drawings of its Merirahu housing estate at Kakumae.

According to the environmental inspectorate, the developer's only violation was starting construction last June when no building permit had yet been issued.

Project leader Jaanus Sula was fined 920 kroons ($52.60) for the violation.

"The issue of the cliff has become a political battle ground, not that we have done anything wrong or violated the law," Sula said, referring to a deepening war of words between the then and the present environment ministers, Villu Reiljan and Heiki Kranich, who have each accused the other of authorizing the destruction of the coastline.

Sula said that what he had done was not to destroy the cliff but to reinforce coastline damaged by nature.

"A geological survey carried out two years ago showed that the coastline lost about 20 centimeters to the sea every year," he said. "So it is a project for the reinforcement of the coastline and what we did was necessary to fight against the reduction of Estonian territory."