Threats to the Environment

Threats to the Environment

There are many anthropogenic threats to the environment of the Pasvik-Inari region. Mining and metallurgical industry in Pechenga, Russia, harnessing of the Pasvik River for hydropower and climate change all induce changes in the natural environments of the region.

The main emissions source of the area is the Pechenganikel mining and metallurgical industry in Pechenga. Sulfur dioxide and heavy metal emissions have continued since the beginning of the 1930s. Airborne emissions have an impact both on the areas close to the industrial sites and areas farther away as they disperse with the winds. Sewage is a major detriment in certain parts of the Pasvik River downstream from the sources.

Sulfur deposition causes acidification


Acidification means that soil or water bodies are losing their capacity to neutralize (buffer) acidic deposition. Acidifying compounds are deposited with rain as wet deposition or with particles and gases as dry deposition.

, which has caused substantial changes in some water bodies of the Pasvik-Inari region. Acidification is harmful to many organisms and sensitive species can even disappear completely from lakes which have been affected by acid rain. In the latest years there has been noticeable recovery of some acidified lakes. However, nowadays problems are still caused by toxic heavy metal emissions from the industrial plants. Increased concentrations of nickel, copper and many other heavy metals can be traced back specifically to the Pechenganikel. Heavy metals are extremely harmful to the environment because they are not broken down in the natural processes.

The regulation for hydropower has affected the aquatic environment of both Lake Inari and the Pasvik River. Regulation with seven hydropower plant dams has induced changes in the communities of benthic invertebrates and fish stocks.

In the Pasvik River region the climate change is manifested by an increase in the mean annual air temperatures, growing intensity of this increase and an increase in precipitation, for instance. Climate change has already caused observable changes in the fish community of the Pasvik River and in the future it will impact the region even more.

Image: Jukka Ylikörkkö