Environmental monitoring in Estonia

Project completed
Researchers lower a side-scan sonar into the sea.
Estonian experts demonstrate the new environmental monitoring devices. © Arno Mikkor (photographer), National Coordination Unit, Estonia Arno Mikkor NCU

Switzerland has equipped Estonian laboratories and monitoring stations with modern devices and financed the training of personnel.  This has given Estonia comprehensive, reliable environmental data on water, air, radioactivity and natural disasters.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Protecting the environment
Environmental monitoring
01.12.2011 - 30.06.2016
CHF  8’500’000

Note: the texts under all the headings, with the exception of 'Results achieved', describe the situation before the start of the project.

Estonia is sparsely populated and has vast swathes of virtually untouched landscape. The country is characterised by its proximity to water: Estonia has more than 1,500 islands and 1,000 lakes and its coast is 3,800 kilometres in length. Numerous marshes, upland moors and forests shape its landscape.

The collection of reliable environmental data is crucial to preserve this unique natural landscape, putting the Estonian authorities in a position to take well-founded decisions to protect the environment. For Estonia, high air and water quality, radiation protection and the prevention of natural disasters are especially important. For this reason, environmental monitoring has been improved in these areas in particular.

Modern equipment and training

Switzerland participated in the purchase of modern measuring and analysis devices and the necessary training of staff. Switzerland contributed to a total of eleven environmental monitoring projects:

  • The Estonian air quality monitoring network has been improved. New methods and analytic devices enable better measurements of harmful substances and fine particulates, and this in turn has enabled the development of action plans to deal with air pollution in urban areas. Swiss and Estonian experts conducted a measurement campaign together to enable Estonia to benefit from experiences already gathered in Switzerland. 
  • Thanks to training and new equipment, the specialists at the Estonian environmental research centre are now able to analyse 33 harmful substances in Estonia's waters. Among other things, the aim was to prevent harmful substances from getting into the food chain. 
  • Estonia's radiation monitoring system has been modernised.  Older monitoring stations and the communication system have been updated so that Estonian environmental authorities can issue prompt, reliable warnings in the event of cross-border emergencies.
  • A Swiss company supplied equipment to Estonia to allow satellite monitoring of contaminated sites and transportations of hazardous substances.
  • Using funds from the enlargement contribution, researchers were able to purchase devices to monitor the sediment development in the coastal region and the quality of seawater. The data collected forms the basis for appropriate measures to protect water resources and manage the risks associated with climate change

Reliable, comprehensive, immediate environmental data

Thanks to these eleven projects, Estonia has been able to improve its implementation of EU regulations on environmental monitoring.  Data collection costs have fallen by 40%.