Baltic: Team effort to tackle ecological disasters

Latvia and Lithuania have established a cross­border rescue team and early­warning system to help cope with any potential ecological disasters around the Lielupe Basin.

The area is considered high risk since large volumes of chemical and petrochemical products are transported through it by road, rail and pipeline.

The Lielupe ECO project, which received support from the European Regional Development Fund (Total cost: EUR 1150511; EU contribution: EUR 977934), has kitted out its rescue team with the latest equipment so that it can act quickly to prevent and eliminate pollution resulting from accidents. The team comprises specialists from the region’s municipalities along with members of the fire and rescue services based in Jelgava, Latvia and the border counties of Šiauliai and Panevežys. All team members receive regular training enabling them to fine-tune their civil defence capabilities.

The project’s early-warning system uses the internet and text messaging to get the team in place quickly and efficiently. The procedure, which was piloted in Jelgava, a city that often has to cope with high flood risks, has subsequently been rolled out in other towns across the region.

Emergency crews and municipalities from both sides of the border have benefited significantly from the project in terms of sharing knowledge, experience and expertise. In turn, this has helped the project partners improve their response to ecological disasters.

In addition, the cross-border region’s risk management standards have been greatly enhanced, not least because the joint rescue team has been given access to more resources than when they acted independently.

Rapid reaction

During its two-year lifespan, the project held 75 seminars addressing a range of issues relating to ecological disasters and responding to the resulting emergencies. These events provided students and local residents with an opportunity to learn about the project and how best to react to a variety of disaster scenarios.

Overall, Lielupe ECO has improved the safety and quality of life of local residents by providing better public emergency services. Moving forward, this will help to promote a stronger and more integrated cross-border community.

Project manager, Liene Rulle, stresses that the project has enabled both regions to share information in ways which would not otherwise have been possible, or at least difficult to gather.

Enhancing the quality and accessibility of the region’s riskmanagement services will be a further key project legacy.

The Baltic Review
The independent newspaper from the Baltics – for the World!