Berlin, Germany – The controversial Baltic Sea gas pipeline is to be less damaging to the vulnerable sea following out-of-court negotiations between proponents Nord Stream and WWF-Germany and BUND (the German chapter of Friends of the Earth).
Under the agreement, Nordstream will modify construction procedures to better protect the environment, greatly increase funding for nature conservation activities, provide more in compensation and provisions for nature conservation measures.
BUND and WWF will discontinue their legal action against the zoning approval and hence waive the option tohave construction work stopped.
“The agreement is a trailblazing success for the protection of the Baltic Sea”, notes Jochen Lamp, head of the Baltic Sea office of WWF Germany.
The operators are guaranteeing that they will implement additional measures to protect nature during the construction of the pipeline, going so far as to implement a modified concept of digging. Funds for compensation measures and nature conservation tasks and maintenance will be increased by more than €10m.
On the crucial Greifswald bodden Nord Stream has agreed to considerably reduce disruptions from construction activity, with marsh soil rich in slush now to be transported to onshore dumps or used as construction material. This will eliminate unnecessary water turbidity which would have killed soil organisms and benefit herring spawn.
The company also entered into an agreement with fishers, which will see the the fishing season for herring in the Greifswald bodden reduced by ten days during next year’s spawning season.
In addition to the requirements imposed by the public authorities, Nord Stream will contribute €10 million for the implementation of nature conservation measures in the Baltic Sea.
Nature reserves as large as up to 1,000 hectares are to be created in order to compensate for damage caused during construction, with Nord Stream paying for maintenance of these areas for a term of 35 years.
Furthermore, the company will provide a guarantee for remedial action concerning unforeseeable environmental impacts of the pipeline.
The additional funds can now be used to develop and implement nature protection projects in the Baltic Sea habitats in due time. These projects include, for instance, steps to remedy the low oxygen content in the sea which is burdened anyway.
Other options include the creation of large wetlands near the coast and the relocation of dams in order to create space for flooded salt marshes.
Notes Corinna Cwielag, managing director of BUND Mecklenburg-Vorpommern: “We have achieved far more for Baltic Sea protection than public authorities were able or willing to do.
“We have achieved a revision of the approval by the mining authorities which foresaw compensation of just 40 percent – and hence also achieved the main goal of our action.”
Eberhard Brandes, head of WWF Germany, called it a “historical achievement” as the first time that a material value visible for investors had been defined for nature on the seafloor and costs had been identified for intervention in marine nature.
This would set standards for the future, he said.