Environmental Board head: I would not call environment minister a friend

Rainer Vakra.
Rainer Vakra. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Rainer Vakra, who was announced as the next director of the Environmental Board on Thursday, told ERR on Friday morning that he promises to focus on raising environmental awareness, but considers the way the shoreline construction bill became public a communications blunder.

Vakra announced in the start of this year that he would quit politics to take up a board position in the private sector, working as the director of district heating company Tallinna Soojus. It was announced on Thursday that the former MP was chosen to be the next director of the Environmental Board.

Vakra spoke with Vikerraadio's morning show "Vikerhommik" on Friday and show host Märt Treier asked the former MP if he is a friend of the new Minister of the Environment Erki Savisaar.

"Erki Savisaar... I would not call him a friend of mine. But perhaps we can become friends? I have been in touch with him during my time in the Riigikogu, but not too much. We will certainly be in touch more now," Vakra said.

He added that he decided to apply for the position of Environmental Board director because the job is something he has studied and worked for for 20 years. Vakra added that only a handful of people knew of his application, including his former bosses.

Responding to a question about the shoreline construction protection zone bill, which has caused heated arguments recently, Vakra said it was a case of unfortunate communication.

"The idea was actually broader. The content was to give local municipality governments more decision-making power. But it was an incorrect step communication-wise. People did not understand it. That (building closer to shorelines - ed) would give local municipalities an option and would not become a rule. Currently, the message is that everyone will now begin building their saunas and sheds on the beach," the new Environmental Board director said.

The current AS Tallinna Soojus director said the Environmental Board must be a partner for people, entrepreneurs, local municipality governments and the state.

"The board's role should not be to punish and implement laws, but rather to be someone that helps find solutions. Another topic is raising environmental awareness. Why we do something. If people understand that, they come along," Vakra said.

He said environmental awareness means that people actually understand and believe that their actions have effects on the environment. "If people do not believe that packaging is actually recycled, they will not collect any. If people do not believe some restrictions are in their best interest. If that is left unexplained, all that work is pointless," Vakra said.

Speaking about felling and the mythical Siberian flying squirrels, the Environmental Board said "flying squirrels are an endangered and cute animal, who is a great example of us having to deal with endangered species and they will continue to be such examples going forward".

He added that his attitude toward forests is the same as any other Estonians - forests are important. "Forests must remain. Every square meter of it is important. There is never enough of forests," Vakra said.

A flying squirrel. Source: ERR


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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