Background and History

In 2001, several environmental NGOs founded the Centre for Environmental Information (EcoInfoCentre) in St.Petersburg, which since then provides various kinds of environmental information to the public and informational-methodical support to NGOs and individual activists.

The need for such a centre grew considerably in Russia in the beginning of the 2000s because of new serious risks to the environment as a result of liquidation of the State Committee for Environmental Protection, and increased business activities in exploiting natural resources and implementing big projects with extensive environmental impact.

Russia has not ratified the Aarhus convention yet. Therefore, public access to environmental information is hindered. The EcoInfoCentre became an important information resource for residents of St.Petersburg and Leningrad region. It helps people to get information on environmental and related legal issues from state agencies, different institutions, Internet, and other sources. It also provides methodical and resource support in protection of environmental rights.

Over 5400 people got support in EcoInfoCenter in just the first year of its operation.

The EcoInfoCentre unites over 20 environmental NGOs in St.Petersburg and Leningrad region in various activities – information and nature conservation campaigns, environmental education, legislation lobbying.

The St.Petersburg EcoInfoCentre became a very important resource for environmental NGOs, having rendered assistance for many dozens of environmental groups in St.Petersburg, Leningrad oblast and North-West Russia.

The EcoInfoCentre helps strengthening civil society in Russia, this goal being still very urgent in this country.

SIX YEARS OF EXPERIENCE - ACCOMPLISHMENTS

The six-years experience of the EcoInfoCentre shows the urgent need in its services, especially in view of absence of other similar centres in St.Petersburg and Leningrad region, the area with population of about 7 mln.

The Ecoinfocentre in St. Petersburg has become a major informational, methodical and consultative resource in the following spheres:

  • Baltic Sea protection; river watch/river basin management; sustainable coastal development; wastewater management; LA 21, etc.
  • Sustainable energy solutions, energy efficiency, energy saving, renewable energy sources
  • Sustainable solutions to transport and air pollution problems, promotion of public transportation and bike routes; energy-efficient and environmentally friendly transport, etc.
  • Green Consumerism
  • NGO co-operation, NGO networking, NGO institutional development
  • Public participation in decision-making, protection of environmental rights, etc.

The Ecocentre work for public participation and lobby work in 2001-2007 included:

  • Organization of NGO participation and NGO proposals to the Public Hearings on: New cargo port in Lomonosov, Cleaning/restoration of Strelka river, St.Petersburg Ring Road, New Statute of nature reserve Lebyazhye (Ramsar area), Nordstream project and many others.
  • Legislation related activities: Comments to Federal Water Code, Urban Code, several laws concerning EIA, comments to the Law on St.Petersburg General Plan, Preparation of St.Petersburg Law on green areas, Preparation of St.Petersburg Law on Forming Environmental Culture, etc.

The Ecocentre organised many seminars, conferences, and trainings in 2001-2007. The major of them were:

  • International conference “Nature and Society” – 2002,
  • Russian Estonian conference on local initiatives for sustainable development – 2004,
  • International conference on Climate and local action for reduction of CO2 emissions – 2006,
  • International conference on Environmental Responsibility of Business – 2007,
  • International and regional conferences and seminars on sustainable wastewater technologies, application of energy efficiency and renewables in NW Russia, Green consumerism, environmental education, education for sustainable development, etc.

During 6 years, the EcoInfoCentre has successfully served as NGO networking resource:

  • EcoInfoCentre initiated and served as a basis for the Round Table of Environmental NGOs of St.Petersburg and Leningrad region created in 2005 for co-ordination of their activities.
  • It has become the resource centre for the North-West Russia Rivers Network which was established on 10 January 2004. Presently, this network unites over 20 NGOs and environmental groups.
  • It continues to be used as a methodical and resource centre for SPARE (International School Programme for Application of Resources and Energy) network activities.
  • It serves as the networking centre for an inter-sectoral group of activists working on transport and air pollution problems in St.Petersburg.
  • It is operating as a CCB information centre, distributing CCB publication both to the Centre’s visitors and at different events organised by the Centre and by other organisations.
  • It is the unique methodical centre for the network of Public Information Centres on Energy Efficiency of North-West Russia.
  • It is the focal point of CBSS-NGO process in Russia in the environmental field.
  • It is a part of the Russian network of inter-sector (NGO-GO) environmental information centres of North-West Russia, created in 2006.
  • It is the focal point of Russian Socio Ecological Union in St.Petersburg.

The example of the EcoInfoCentre was highly appreciated and used for multiplication to create similar Centres:

  • in Apatity (Murmansk region) and Lomonosov (Leningrad region), joint project, 2003-2004;
  • In Pskov, Novgorod, Kaliningrad, and Arkhangelsk, initiated and methodically supported by the St.Petersburg EcoInfoCentre within the project “Strengthening the Influence of Environmental Information in North-West of Russia” in 2005-2007.

Six Years of Experience – Conclusions

The Ecoinfocenter raised public environmental awareness, showed opportunities for strengthening public participation, assisted the development of the public environmental movement, and contributed in sustainable solutions of various environmental problems.

The St.Petersburg youth environmental groups working on environmental protection in St.Petersburg, Leningrad region and North-West Russia. The Centre implements very important activities on strengthening environmental NGOs and the public sector on the whole in the region.

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