As requested by Decision 30 COM 7B.87, a report was submitted by the Lithuanian authorities dated 30 January and another was submitted on 7 March 2007 by the Russian Federation.
The Lithuanian report informs that the last meeting of the “Joint Lithuanian-Russian Environmental Protection Commission” took place on 18-19 January 2006. The subsequent meeting planned for November 2006 was postponed several times by the Russian authorities. The Lithuanian proposal was to hold the meeting in March 2007, but so far no reply was received on the possible date of the meeting from the Russian authorities. The November 2006 session of the Joint Commission was supposed to discuss the issues raised by the last Committee’s decision and therefore:
a) The signature of the bilateral “Agreement Concerning Co-operation in Case of Pollution accidents, Pollution Prevention, Mitigation and Compensation Measures”, has not taken place. Due to some differences of opinion between the two States Parties on the text of the Agreement, the Lithuanian authorities proposed to initiate official intergovernmental negotiations. Despite several contacts by the Lithuanian authorities, the position of the Russian authorities on conducting such negotiations is still unknown at the time of the preparation of this report. However, the Lithuanian State Party stressed that it attaches great importance to signing the Agreement, which is of utmost importance for the preservation of the property and basis for joint action in case of emergencies in D-6 oil platform and pipeline;
b) The signature of the joint “Lithuanian and Russian Action Plan for Co-operation in Case of Pollution accidents in the Baltic Sea” is still awaited. Though ready for approval, it cannot be signed since the above-mentioned Agreement, which constitutes the legal basis for the Plan, has not been finalised and signed;
c) The joint “Lithuanian-Russian post-project Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)” of the D-6 oil platform and the continuation of bilateral environmental monitoring have only been partially implemented since the final report on post-project EIA is waiting for the final approval from the “Joint Lithuanian-Russian Environmental Protection Commission”. On the other hand, with regard to the EIA, the Russian State Party report states that the final report on the post-project EIA presented by the Lithuanian authorities reflected only the opinion of Lithuanian experts, disregarding the research results of the Russian experts. However, the Russian authorities have decided to complete the final report and to transmit the notes to the Ministry of Environmental Protection of Lithuania.
The Russian report further informed that in 2006 the States Parties held a Workgroup meeting on the creation of an environmental monitoring system of the Curonian Spit and the Baltic Sea. The aim of the meeting was the consideration of the results of the Monitoring Programme carried out in 2005, the fulfillment of monitoring research in 2006, and preparation of the suggestions for adjustment of the Monitoring System in 2007. The refined Monitoring Programme is to be confirmed at the Fifth Session of the Joint Commission.
The World Heritage Centre deeply regrets that after increased bilateral cooperation between Lithuania and Russian Federation, in response to threats from the D-6 oil field project, and despite the commitment of both States Parties last year, the cooperation has drastically slowed down.
The report submitted by the Lithuanian State Party also contained a comprehensive report on the state of conservation of the Lithuanian side of the Curonian Spit. Among other issues, the report informs that the May 2006 fires in the northern part of the property had an impact on fauna and flora but did not threaten the dunes. The affected area covered 235.6 hectares. The “Plan of Activities for Elimination of Negative Factors” elaborated in 2006 is being implemented and additional financial resources from the State Budget were allocated to this end. In addition, the World Heritage Centre received in July 2006 a letter from Lithuanian Permanent Delegation to UNESCO asking for technical support from international experts on the effects of the fires. Two international experts were identified by IUCN and their contact information provided.
The Russian State Party’s report on the state of conservation for its part of the property discussed the following: current legal regulation, measures for protection and restoration of natural complexes and zoning of the property under the Federal law “on specially protected natural areas”, the determination of the buffer zone, and site ecological monitoring system. The report also stated that the most frequent potential factors that may cause emergency situations are storms, forest fires, oil transportation, production transit traffic, and high recreational pressure on the property.
Furthermore, a news article released on 20 March 2006, announced that a major sewage spill into a body of water close to the World Heritage site was halted without apparent damage. The article also mentioned that this was caused by a leak appeared in a 30-year-old stretch of pipe linking the port city of Klaipeda to a nearby sewage-treatment facility. It seems that despite efforts to stop the flow, raw sewage began spilling into the Curonian Lagoon. By the time the leak was repaired, up to 60,000 cubic metres – around 60 tons – of raw sewage had flowed out into the narrow lagoon separating Klaipeda from the Spit. According to environmental inspectors who examined the scene, there should be no negative impact on the shore. Furthermore, initial inspections showed that the damage to marine life was much less than expected.
The World Heritage Centre requested the State Party of Lithuania to provide additional information, including an assessment of the impact of this incident. A report was received on 26 March 2007 which reported that approximately 50,000 cubic metres of raw sewage passed into the Lagoon and that impacts to the water ecosystem of the site are being evaluated. It is estimated that the terrestrial part of the property is not affected.