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Estonian parlt committee to acquaint itself with Tallinn-Helsinki tunnel project

TALLINN - The environment committee of the Estonian parliament is to acquaint itself at a sitting on Monday with the project for building an undersea railway tunnel between the capitals of Estonia and Finland, focusing on the strategic assessment of the project's possible environmental impacts.

An overview of the action plan for the tunnel will be presented by representatives of FinEst Bay Area Development OU, the developer of the project, spokespeople for the government said.

Chairman of the environment committee Rainer Vakra said that the tunnel is an ambitious endeavor and the implementation thereof requires a comprehensive in-depth analysis.

"If a national designated spatial plan is initiated, the compilation thereof must include studies related to the establishment of the tunnel, an integral part of which is an assessment of environmental impacts. The results of the environmental studies will provide input for the technical solution and the subsequent construction project of the railway tunnel," Vakra said.

Vakra added that the impacts posed by the construction of the tunnel on the seabed and water quality, protected areas and species, human activity, fishing, use of natural resources, shipping and waste generation need to be ascertained.

Based on our preliminary estimation, it can be said that as the projected tunnel lies deep underneath the seabed, there is only a minor effect on the environment, Vakra said.

"On the other hand, we need to make sure that the artificial island, which is to be built along with the construction of the tunnel, should include habitats for birds and seals," the chairman of the committee said, adding that the tunnel will have a positive impact on the environment as it will decrease the number of ferries operating in the gulf.

In Finland, studies into the impact of the project have been ongoing since spring last year, an assessment plan for environmental effects has already been compiled and awaits Estonia's decision.

Deputy chairman of the committee Kalle Palling pointed out that the tunnel is an innovative incentive with regard to economic development.

"This would be the biggest single investment by the private sector in the history of Estonia providing direct growth-enhancing effects on the economy," Palling said. 

He added that even though Estonia does not currently have all the knowledge and experience required to build the tunnel, the construction of it would enhance cooperation with Estonian universities and encourage the implementation of projects that previously seemed impossible.

The committee's sitting will be attended by FinEst Bay Area Development OU, officials from the Estonian Ministry of Finance as well as the Ministry of the Environment.

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