Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Gulf of Finland's environment under focus at Suomenlinna

Natural scientists, musicians, artists and school children from Finland, Russia and Estonia gathered in a historical island fortress in Finland to express their concern and opinions about the health of the Gulf of Finland. The fourth in a series of annual events, the three-day programme (24-26 May 1996) at Suomenlinna addressed the environmental situation through multi-faceted, trans-cultural activities including seminars carried out in conjunction with practical field activities.

Included, for example, on the agenda were hydrobiological Scuba exercises in the framework of an interdisciplinary educational project to map the littoral habitat of the UNESCO World Heritage Site (Suomenlinna: see last paragraph) and to promote general public interest in the flora and fauna of the littoral habitat of the Gulf as a whole. During the event, a considerable amount of printed information and some video films were made available concerning UNESCO's natural science programs, the World Decade for Cultural Development (WDCD), biosphere area preservation and integrated coastal zone management.

The Gulf's ecosystems are considered to be extremely sensitive. Due to the dominantly estuarine environment, many aquatic species are living at their limits of tolerance. For some years the continuous impact of pollution input from the atmosphere, agriculture, industry and poorly treated municipal waste waters has been overburdening and disrupting the Gulf's natural ability to cleanse itself.

Major joint activities and greatly increased exchange of environmental data and information amongst the states surrounding the Gulf are now recognized as pre-requisites for stabilizing the ecological decline of this marine body. Efforts are being made to overcome the political difficulties of the past and improve this cooperation.

The Suomenlinna event was organized by the Gulf of Finland Environment Society (SULA) and co-sponsored by UNESCO (CSI and WDCD), the Finnish Ministry of the Environment, the City of Helsinki and some commercial companies.

The historical venue was the Suomenlinna Fortress (outside Helsinki), recognized by UNESCO at a World Heritage Site in 1992. Covering six islands with a total of 64 hectares, this monumental construction was begun by the Swedish army in 1748, continued by the Russians after 1808 and by the Fins after their independence in 1917. The fortress is being restored by the Governing Body of Suomenlinna and the National Board of Antiquities under the auspices of the Finnish Ministry of Education.

Source/contact: Richard Thompson Coon, Chairman, Gulf of Finland Environment Society - SULA. Fax: +358 9668068

UNESCO contact: E-mail : csi@unesco.org

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