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Mayor: Tartu doesn't want billion-euro pulp mill in city area

Tartu mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform).
Tartu mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform). Source: (ERR)

Mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform) told ERR on Wednesday that Tartu doesn't want EstFor's planned billion-euro pulp mill built anywhere close. The plant doesn't suit the economy of a city of 100,000, and would affect city life with its smelly exhausts 54 days a year, Klaas said.

Klaas has said on several occasions that the state couldn't decide on a location for the pulp mill close to the city without taking the city itself into account.

The mayor added that neither the Ministry of Finance nor the Ministry of the Environment were currently leaving a very trustworthy impression, as the scope for the possible future location of the pulp mill had narrowed from originally Pärnu, Jõgeva, Põlva, Tartu, and Viljandi County to just Tartu and Viljandi a little too quickly. "I'm sorry to say, but that's how it is," Klaas said.

Asked why he hadn't complained earlier, as the current course of action for the development of the pulp mill was set out as early as May 12 last year, Klaas said that it had been contested by several parties from the start, and that little could be argued against looking into the projects different possibilities.

The city has made it quite clear that it is worried about the norms set for the feasibility studies. "The plant would be allowed to discharge [smelly exhausts] on 54 days of the year, which the people of Tartu certainly won't agree with," Klaas said. "Another thing is that the plant would have such an environmental impact on the water quality both of the Emajõgi river as well as Lake Peipus that we wouldn't be able to meet the conditions set out in the water management plan, and the water quality would get even worse," he added.

All of this, combined with the fact that a plant of this size would have a serious impact on the city's economic model and development, made the project unsuitable for Tartu, Klaas said. The effects on the quality of the city's water and air would have immediate consequences for Tartu's economic environment. The city is working to attract companies in the IT and medicinal technology sectors, and generally marketing itself as a city with a very high quality of life. Polluted water and air don't fit this concept, Klaas said.

The Tartu city council is meeting on Mar. 7, where Klaas expects it to also take a position against the project. The city's administration is worried, especially after a recent comment by Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) that there is no specific paragraph in Estonian law that would grant the city a veto in the matter.

Klaas doesn't exclude the possibility at this point to take legal steps against the project. The city's administration also looked into its options in case the government should go ahead with the project anyway, Klaas said.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

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