EBRD hails success of St. Petersburg clean river project

10.10.2013 Baltic pollution cut thanks to cooperation between Russia and international community

International lenders and donors gathered in St. Petersburg today for a milestone event that creates the conditions for Russia’s second city to achieve its long-standing goal of ending the discharge of untreated sewage into the Baltic Sea. 

Stopping this pollution, long an issue of major concern for the 55 million people living around the rim of the Baltic, has been made possible thanks to close cooperation between Russia, its neighbours and the international community. This join effort is symbolically reflected in the two closely linked projects inaugurated today as part of the celebrations marking the 155th anniversary of the foundation of St. Petersburg’s water authority, Vodokanal. 

The main one is the Northern Sewage Collector Tunnel (NTC), funded by the Russian Federation and the City of St. Petersburg, while the international community has financed an unique pumping station 90 metres below ground, without which the NTC could not function. The pumping station will initially operate in test mode. 

The NTC completion will allow the closure of 57 sewers that are currently discharging municipal and industrial wastewater, as well as storm water, directly into the Neva River. Their closure means nearly 500,000 cubic metres of wastewater a day will be biologically disinfected rather than pour out untreated into the Baltic. This will help bring the treatment of wastewater by St. Petersburg in line with the recommendations by the Helsinki Convention which seeks to protect the Baltic Sea’s marine environment by reducing land-based pollution. With a population of nearly five million, St. Petersburg is the Baltic’s largest city. 

Betsy Nelson, the EBRD’s Vice President for Risk and Resources, who represented the Bank at the Vodokanal event, paid tribute to the city’s clean river project as setting a perfect example of how much can be achieved for the benefit of all by cooperation between Russia and the international community. 

Previous internationally-funded projects had by 2005 already cut to 15 percent the proportion of St. Petersburg’s wastewater that is discharged untreated into the Baltic. Since then, Vodokanal has managed to reduce that portion even further so that now only 1.6 percent of the city’s wastewater flows into the Neva untreated. The EBRD has to date invested over EUR 90 million in various projects supporting St. Petersburg’s efforts to stop the discharges of untreated effluent into the Neva. This includes the largest single grant made by its Shareholder Special which donated EUR 6 million for the new pumping station. 

The key actor in this programme has been the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP), launched in 2001 to mobilise international help in order to tackle the biggest environmental problems in Northwest Russia. The EU and Russia are now the largest contributors to the NDEP’s Support Fund. 

Other major international contributors to the overall project have been the European Union, including through its TACIS programme, the Nordic Investment Bank (NIB), the European Investment Bank (EIB), the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), THE Nordic Environment Finance Corporation (NEFCO) and the government of Finland. 

The EBRD, owned by 64 countries and two intergovernmental institutions, supports the development of market economies and democracies. 

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For more information please contact Richard Wallis at +7495 787 1111 or WallisR@ebrd.com

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