Barents Environmental hot spots – the hard work is finally paying off

Severe cases of diverse contamination, lack of ownership, and incomplete analysis and prognosis are all some of the factors making the work on the Barents Environmental Hot Spots slow and difficult. However, the recent breakthrough enabling three hot spots to be taken off the list creates a positive outlook for finding solutions also to others.

The three hot spots are K10 – 2,3 tons of DDT in Karelia, A10 – 40 tons of obsolete pesticides in Arkhangelsk, and M8 – Mercury containing wastes in Murmansk, were officially concluded to have met the qualifications to be taken off the list. This is the most significant outcome of the meeting between Ministers of Environment of the Barents member states in Umeå, November 9.

The hot spot list was established in 1995 and last revised in 2003, and according to a ministerial agreement of the same year, the intention was that all the 42 hot spots should be eliminated by 2013. This time line may be difficult to meet since the majority of them are in reality still far from being taken off the list. That is doubtlessly the case of the heavely debated and most well known hot spots of them all: the Pechenga-Nikkel smelter that contaminate not only on the Russian side but also in Norway.

It was highlighted in the Ministerial Meeting that the K10, A10, and M8 are all in the category of the “easier” hot spots, but maybe even more importantly they serve as cases for method and process development in how to approach the hot spots in general terms. For example, the Exclusion Procedure has been divided into eight steps. Each step has to be completed before the hot spots can move on to the next and all eight steps have to be completed before the hot spot can be taken off the list.
- Behind this breakthrough lies much hard work. Regional hot spot exclusion groups have been established in all five regions of the Russian Barents, and are working on solving the hot spots. It is now important to continue with strong commitment to solve the remaining 39 hot spots, stated Lena Ek, Swedish Minister of Environment.
Close cooperation on an almost day to day basis in the last year between Ministries, national agencies and Nefco has been the driving force in both method and engaging representatives from the five Russian regions. This work has taken place within the framework of the Swedish Chairmanship 2010-2011 of the Barents Working Group on Environment. At the meeting Lena Ek, passed the Chairmanship for the next two years on to Finland’s Minister of Environment, Ville Niinistö, who stated that:
- We will do our best to facilitate the continuation of hot spot exclusion and promote cleaner production activities to support the goal to start environmental measures at every hot spot by 2013.
One problematic feature is that still today, all hot spots are not fully analyzed which makes it impossible to set out realistic concrete plans and time prognosis for each and every one of them. In this, as well as other aspects, the Finnish ambitions are very welcome.
The Russian regions have made a selection of hot spots likely to be dealt with in the near future. Some of them are hot spots on drinking water (Nenets, Murmansk, and Karelia), mercury waste (Nenets), hot spots caused by paper and pulp industries (Archangelsk and Komi), and by the smelters in Nikkel and Monchegorsk (Murmansk).

A data base on the development of the hot spots will soon be published on More information will then be available to the public. BarentSaga will also come back to this in the next issue.

In addition to the Barents Environmental Hot Spot, climate change, water and the Barents Protected Area Network are also part of the environmental cooperation in the Barents Region.

The Meeting between Ministers of Environment of the Barents member countries takes place once every second year. The Umeå Meeting was the 10th meeting. The next meeting will take place under Finnish Chairmanship.

Henna Haapala, Senior Adviser at the Finnish Ministry of Environment will be in charge of the Barents Working Group on Environment 2012-2013.

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