Use of fertilisers in agriculture should be given attention to improve the condition of Lake Peipus

Toomas Mattson | 4/25/2012 | 8:46 AM

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TALLINN, 25 April 2012 - The National Audit Office notes in its audit that in order to reduce the pollution load of Lake Peipus, diffuse agricultural pollution should also be given more attention in addition to urban waste water treatment, as it forms the most significant share of the pollution generated on the Estonian side. The cooperation between Estonia and Russia in improving the condition of the lake, which has been going well so far, should also be made more efficient.

National environmental monitoring indicated that the condition of Lake Peipus is poor and the condition of Lake Lämmijärv and Lake Pihkva is bad. The main cause of this is pollution of the lakes with plant nutrients, mainly nitrogen and phosphorus. Irrespective of the efforts made to reduce pollution of the lakes, the condition of Lake Peipus has not improved in the last decade. The goal set by the European Union for 2015, which is to guarantee the good condition of all inland bodies of water, incl. Lake Peiplus, is unlikely to be achieved. 2021 has been set as the next deadline.
Tarmo Olgo, Director of Audit of the Performance Audit Department, explained that a poor or bad condition leads to changes in the ecosystem of the body of water and in most critical cases, fish may be killed as a result of the proliferation of algae and algal toxins. “This means that life by the lake will also suffer, as the lake may become unusable for fishing and swimming,” said Olgo.

The National Audit Office is not convinced that the new deadline can be met, unless people start paying more attention to reducing diffuse agricultural pollution in both water management plans and in financing protection measures. So far, the state has invested the most into urban waste water treatment (approximately 150 million euros from 2004-2011) in order to protect the catchment area of Lake Peipus. Tarmo Olgo says that options for reducing the load generated by agriculture should now also be considered. “The diffuse pollution caused by the use of fertilisers currently forms 65-90% of the lake’s pollution load created by human activity,” said Olgo. “However, restrictions on the use of fertilisers in agriculture are not strict enough and inspection of their use is inadequate. For example, the National Audit Office believes it is wrong that many producers still don’t adhere to the recommendations of good agricultural practice when using fertilisers.”

As Lake Peipus is the largest transboundary water body in the European Union and two-thirds of its catchment area is located in Russia, then the supreme audit institutions of Estonia and Russia audited the improvement of the condition of Lake Peipus together. The National Audit Office of Estonia and the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation emphasise in their joint memorandum that the condition of the lake can be improved only if the two countries work together. It is therefore important to improve the successful work of the joint Estonian-Russian committee even further, especially in setting common lake protection goals, organising surveillance and exchanging data. It is also necessary to carry out a joint evaluation of whether or not the implemented activities have had an impact on improving the lake’s condition.

The audit of the National Audit Office “Efficiency of the Measures for Improvement of the Condition of Lake Peipus” is a part of the parallel audit carried out by the National Audit Office of the Republic of Estonia and the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation. Both countries audited how the protection of Lake Peipus is organised in their countries on the basis of the same questions and criteria. The memorandum “Results of the Parallel Audit of the Activities of State Agencies in the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation in Guaranteeing Environmental Protection of Lake Peipus and Sustainable Use of Transboundary Waters Carried out by the National Audit Office of the Republic of Estonia and the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation”.

Toomas Mattson
Head of Communication Service, National Audit Office
[email protected]

  • Posted: 4/25/2012 8:46 AM
  • Last Update: 11/10/2015 5:35 PM
  • Last Review: 11/10/2015 5:35 PM

Catchment area of Lake Peipus

Tallinna Tehnikaülikool

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