Environmental issues in Finland

Finland is located in the northern most part of Europe, positioned between Russia and Sweden. Nearly a quarter of its land mass lies above the Arctic Circle. Before WWII, Finland’s main resources were agriculture and forestry. These made up nearly 50% of the nation’s work force. By 1980, this had been diminished to about 10%. After the war, almost half of the population started migrating from farms to urban areas in order to find employment. It is known in Finland as the “Great Migration.” This lead to a housing boom, but in addition, a problem with air and water pollution.

Many rivers and groundwater in Finland have been polluted due to fertilizer from the agriculture industry and wood-processing plants. In the 1980s, sulfur and nitrogen emissions were higher in Finland than in other European countries. With the Nature Conservation Act of 1923, nature preserves could be established as needed and various laws were passed concerning purity of water, pesticide control and waste management.

In 1983, in a further effort to protect the environment, the Ministry of Environment was formed which established departments concerned specifically with conservation of the environment, nature and housing. About 75% of all residences had been built since WWII. By the end of the 1990s, the government planned to restore 60,000 buildings each year. The housing boom had started.

However, by 1988, it was determined that due to lack of expertise and uninformed government officials, Finland still lacked a satisfactory environmental plan. Today, however, Finland is known for its environmental improvements. With technological advancements in monitoring and measuring pollutants in water and air, Finland’s Ministry of Environment has turned things around.

In recent years, laws have been passed to regulate emissions from industrial plants in order to improve air quality. Rivers and lakes have been cleared up. Steps have been taken, in conjunction with other bordering countries along the Baltic Sea to protect it as well. Legislation has been passed to protect Finland’s ecosystems.

There are still improvements to be made to protect Finland’s natural environment. Although 80% of the area’s waterways are considered excellent or of good quality, water near industries is often shallow and susceptible to pollution. Eutrophication is a vast buildup of nutrients that support a huge growth of algae and other organisms. When this starts to decay, it drains water of oxygen. This is a problem with many of the shallow inland waterways in Finland.

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