Tarja Halonen:

]Education, Education, Education Is The Key To Saving Water

Tarja Halonen was the President of Finland in 2000-2012. Now she is Co-Chair of the UN High-level Panel on Global Sustainability, so ecology is included in the list of her professional resonsibilities, among many others issues. Da-Voda asked Tarja Halonen about water conservation issues at home and elsewhere, and about current problems of the Baltic Sea ecology.

We have succeeded to improve waste water systems in different countries pretty well. In Russia St. Petersburg, for example, has accomplished improvements. The work continues. The big challenge facing us in all countries of the region is agriculture.

The Baltic Sea is also important when it comes to traffic. We should make our co-operation more effective in this sector – especially because there are also ships, which are not very experienced in navigating in the circumstances of the North. Our countries have already worked well together in IMO (the International Maritime Organization), and we should now continue to improve the situation in the Baltic Sea harbours.

For quite a while already there exists official co-operation like HELCOM, which is essential. But we also need broader collaboration. I, together with our Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, invited Heads of State and Government together with NGOs and corporations committed to the Clean Baltic Sea to the Summit in Helsinki in 2010. We received about 150 promises from these stakeholders in Helsinki. Some have been realized and others have not. You can follow the advancement of the commitments at the Baltic Sea Action Group.

The next follow-up meeting is in St. Petersburg now in April. I am happy to meet some of my old friends there. The Finns, Estonians and Russians are also working for Baltic Sea 2014. I am optimistic. It seems to me that people are more and more interested in ecology.

I do not underestimate the costs of ecological actions, but doing nothing will be most expensive both for nature and for people. The Swedish Stern Report estimates that investments in ecology pay back.

Concerning the expenses, governments can do a lot. Co-operating with scientists brings about new innovations. With the right taxation, tariffs and subventions you can support green technology so that it would be more competitive early on. Of course binding international agreements are welcome, too. The EU, for example, will ban detergents containing phosphates in 2014. Russia could do the same.

I am also happy to notice that many corporations have already found green technology very interesting and promising.

Using water – in industry, in households and also in agriculture - has its price in Finland and in Russia. A warm shower consumes energy, and cleaning water does, too. Bottled water is not a good idea in our society. These are just a few examples. WWF-Russia can tell you more. In some cases, it could be useful to make corporations and people responsible for their behavior by having them pay for it.

So education, education, education in schools, at home and in the media is key.

I was impressed, when in January I saw education programs at the Indian countryside. NGO activists have trained teachers and senior students to tell the children how much water we have on this planet and how little of it is fresh water. The education was very pragmatic. If they manage to have such education in poor conditions, we could do the same in all countries of the Baltic Sea, and we do already have some good examples of this issue.

World Water Day (March 22nd) is exactly the day when I started to answer your questions. It is a Good Day, and I will tell my friends about it.

To save water at home, we do very simple things. We remember to save water in our everyday practices. For example, in the shower I close the shower when I open my shampoo bottle and open the shower again when I start to rinse my hair.

My advice to visitors of your website: Go through your routines during next weekend and check where you could improve your habits.

Europeans are more interested in ecology issues than Russians and Americans, because perhaps we still live close to the nature. But I am optimistic about all people.

Photo: PresidentHalonen.fi.

Силами Disqus