Estonia: Viru and Peipsi Catchment Area Management Plan (#356)

Oil-shale mining and oil-shale based electricity production has caused serious damage to ground and surface water in the Viru-Peipsi catchment area in Estonia. Action was taken to enhance the protection of the water resources through a project that set out a management plan. The project included data collection, monitoring and capacity building. Due to the success of this project, it can be used as an example for future developments. 


Oil-shale mining and oil-shale based electricity production, chemical and other industrial activities, mine- and quarry-dewatering, mismanagement of oil and fuel stocks, inadequate waste management and untreated wastewater, and poor environmental management of agricultural activities have caused serious damage to ground and surface water in the Viru-Peipsi catchment area in Estonia.

Negative consequences include the development of depression cones, an accelerated movement of pollutants from one aquifer to another, and the eutrophication of the shallow Lake Peipsi.

These problems also impact on the Russian coast of Lake Peipsi. The EU Water Framework Directive (WFD) dictates that water management plans must be introduced for all river basins in the European Union to ensure the sound and sustainable management of water resources.

In Estonia, actions coherent with the WFD are also foreseen under national legislation and the National Environmental Action Plan.

Action taken

The project developed a management plan for the Viru-Peipsi catchment area, in order to enhance the protection of the water resources of the Narva river and Lake Peipsi basins. The expected long-term impacts included a progressive move towards a cessation of discharges, emissions and release of hazardous substances listed in the EU Priority List, in EU Lists I and II of Dangerous Substances, and in an Estonian-specific list of hazardous substances.

To develop the draft RBMP, the project carried out inventory and data gathering activities, in cooperation with the relevant national institutions. The project also elaborated an economic assessment of the expense of reducing the municipal, agricultural and industrial pollution load and proposed water protection and clean-up measures.

Capacity building activities included the training of technical staff in monitoring and sampling, as well as the upgrading of technical equipment (PCs, and GIS and MIS applications, for example). The project was instrumental in improving stakeholder dialogue and participation. The project carried out an extensive dissemination and exchange of information in Estonia including national-level television broadcasts.

Lessons learned and Importance for IWRM

  • The main result of the project is a draft River Basin Management Plan (RBMP). This was developed through expert and publication consultation. The Ministry will use the draft as the basis for the final RBMP in coming years, according to the schedule set in the WFD. In addition to the draft RBMP, the project provided assistance to the Ministry of Environment in revision of legislation concerning delineation of river basin districts and groundwater bodies.
  • The project provided valuable experience and expertise that will contribute to the further development of the final RBMP. The project has also contributed to an international dialogue with Russia, as the Lake is a transboundary lake.
  • This project has been selected as one of the 22 "Best" LIFE Environment projects in 2006-2007.

Photo credit: The World Bank