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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Planning for sustainable tourism development / Karelia-Finland and Russia

Posted By: Maisa Siirala
Date: Wednesday, 13 October 1999, at 4:34 p.m.

Key words: cultural heritage,land use planning, traditional landscapes.


Ladoga is the largest lake in Europe and Saimaa the largest in Finland. The region is a mosaic of waters, forests, fields and hills. The cultural heritage is rich, even prehistoric age is visible. Karelia's own culture absorbed influences from the east and west. It includes Karelian, Finnish, Swedish and Russian heritage as seen in monuments, historical landscapes and monasteries on islands.

The northern part of the Lake Ladoga area has great potential for tourism. It was closed for over fifty years during the Soviet era. Without proper land use planning there is a risk of uncontrolled development and serious damage to the natural and cultural environment.

The objective is sustainable tourism development and management of the cultural and natural heritage through land use planning. A cross-border tourism route around both lakes is planned. Public participation is an important part of the project.

STATUS: The project is in an early planning stage and it will be co-financed by the State of Finland, the Republic of Karelia and to some extent, the EU.


LONG-TERM BENEFIT: The objective of the project is to help create a planning system, that could guarantee sustainable development especially for tourism. The aim is to fully include environmental aspects, such as the natural and cultural heritage, in future planning and decision making.

CAPACITY BUILDING AND INSTITUTIONAL STRENGTHENING: The project will foster co-operation between different stakeholders and different levels of administration. The aim is also to develop co-operation between municipalities around the Finnish-Russian border in Karelia.

SUSTAINABILITY: The project will help to ensure that the valuable and important natural and cultural heritage along Lake Saimaa and Lake Ladoga will be preserved. In the future it will promote the use and maintenance of traditional agriculture landscapes on the coasts and in the islands. It will also help in restoration of villages and buildings.

TRANSFERABILITY: The land use planning methods used in this project can be applied to other similar areas in the Republic of Karelia, e.g. by Lake Onega and in the White Sea archipelago. The method can be tested and applied also in other corresponding northern coastal and archipelagic areas.

CONSENSUS BUILDING: The co-operation will decrease conflicts between economic and environmental interests (conflicts can be quite strong especially in view of Russia's present economic and political situation). It will help balance protection/conservation activities and exploitation needs, when developing tourism in nationally and globally valuable archipelagic areas and landscapes.

PARTICIPATORY PROCESS: The project will create a participatory planning system, where all interests and different sectors, enterprises, administration, NGOs, village people and land owners will be involved.

EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT COMMUNICATION PROCESS: In Russia under the Soviet era the decision making system was very centralised. The aim of the project is to help to make it more open and to increase the flow of information among stakeholders. The project will improve communication between different parties, e.g. tourism developers and enterprises by Lake Ladoga and Lake Saimaa.

CULTURALLY RESPECTFUL: The project is based on values of unique natural formations and landscape features of the biggest lakes in Europe. In Karelia there is a peculiar mixture of Finnish, Swedish and Russian cultural heritage. The project will promote sustainable use, protection, maintenance and other practices which prevent deterioration of traditional agricultural landscapes.

GENDER AND/OR SENSITIVITY ISSUES: This area has been divided and split many times. Before the World War 2, the biggest part of the Karelian Isthmus and Northern Ladogan Karelia belonged to Finland. Now these areas belong to the Russian Federation. Ladogan Karelia is part of the Republic of Karelia. Some hundred years before they belonged to Finland-Sweden and before that to Russia. The border has changed 8 times in that area from 1323 to 1947.

STRENGTHENING LOCAL IDENTITIES: One task of the project is to raise awareness of the inhabitants about the cultural heritage and settlement history of Karelia. The objective is to strengthen interest to maintain and develop the area in a sustainable way.

LEGAL NATIONAL POLICY: The project is aiming at supporting new democratic policies and strengthening co-operation between public authorities, enterprises and inhabitants. The project will demonstrate how to include environmental aspects in land use planning and economic development projects.

REGIONAL DIMENSION: The project endeavours to strengthen the cross-border area and the Karelian cultural, social and environmental identity, which was lost during the Soviet era. In practice the project will also help cross-border communication. One task is to promote cross-border tourism and the opening of new border stations.

DOCUMENTATION: The basis for the project was a joint 3 year Finnish-Russian study on the area. The report "The Cultural Heritage of the Northern Part of Lake Ladoga," was published both in Finnish and Russian. Before this project there was a co-operation programme: Atlantic-Karelian Development Corridors (led by the Ministry of Environment in Finland). Concerning Lake Saimaa there already exist regional plans, municipal land use plans, other plans and studies, e.g. "Integrated Water Resources Development Plan for Saimaa Watercourse." In Autumn 1999 the project will be presented in an exhibition in Finland to pertinent ministers of the European Union.


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