Estonia: Soviet Era and
Current Environmental Issues
Estonia has been the site of
some of the most severe environmental pollution ever uncovered
during the Soviet reign. After World War II (WW2 or WWII), Russia
occupied a number of Eastern European countries, including Estonia.
When the Soviet era came to an end in the early 90s, the Soviet army
began to withdraw from the occupied satellite nations. During their
withdrawal, the Soviets proceeded to dump enormous amounts of jet
fuel, toxic chemicals and outdated weapons and explosives into the
surrounding land. With utter disregard for the environmental
consequences, the Soviets returned to Russia without a second
thought towards their unmentionable acts.
With the complete degradation of Estonian top soil and inland and
coastal waterways, Estonians are still facing the negative
ecological impacts of the widespread pollution. The site of the
worst damage was said to be the Tapa air base, where an estimated
six square kilometers of land were contaminated by a layer of jet
fuel that proceeded to breach eleven square kilometers of
underground waterways. The surrounding areas' drinking water was
subsequently deemed undrinkable and health issues commenced to
spread rampantly through the regions most effected by the
This was not the only environmental concern that resulted from the
Soviet's neglect. From the 1960s up to the present, Estonia has been
the largest oil shale consumer and producer in the world. The use of
oil shale has been associated with the production of sulfur dioxide,
which is an extremely dangerous environmental hazard. Additionally,
Estonia has gone on record as being the world leader in sulfur
dioxide production per capita. Two of the largest oil shale plants
in the world can account for nearly 75 percent of Estonia's air
pollution. Approximately 4.5 million tons of ash are spewed into the
air by these two power plants alone.
Another environmental concern that stems from the Soviet era is the
surprising amount of nuclear waste that was improperly disposed of
into a reservoir near the coast of the Gulf of Finland.
Approximately 1200 tons of uranium and 750 tons of thorium were
dumped at this location. Due to the Soviet's negligence, area
residents suffered a number of health related issues. The cost
afforded by the disaster reached upwards to 3.5 billion, and it
continues to detrimentally effect Estonia to this day.
Finally, the Baltic Sea has seen much better days since the advent
of global oil trade. Because Estonia is the world's largest oil
shale producer, the baltic sea is the primary shipping route for
Estonia's oil tankers. Since 1980, on average, there has been at
least one major shipping accident each year in the Baltic Sea.
Although not all of them can be attributed to Estonia, the dead zone
on the Baltic's sea floor that ensued has had a huge environmental
impact on Estonia. The marine life that once thrived and fed many of
the native Estonian's now is virtually nonexistent.
With a history plagued with authoritative reigns and environmental
apathy, it is hard not to feel compassion for the Estonian people.
Hopefully, as human beings become more aware of their impact on
their surroundings, we can work to rectify our many failings.
2013, All Rights Reserved