The Nord Stream Natural Gas Pipeline was launched in November 2011. Its business model is to provide gas transportation capacity for the natural gas coming from western Russia for distribution into the European gas grid, with landfalls in Russia and Germany. The extension of The Nord Stream Pipeline, North Stream 2 (Severny Potok) Natural Gas Pipeline aims to be stretching along the Baltic Sea bottom from the Russian to the German coast by alike route. Its launch is planned for the end of 2019. For the landfall in Russia for the new pipeline, The Narva Bay and the Kolganpa cape were chosen as alternative routes. The published non-technical annotation of the gas pipeline project states that based on the results of environmental surveys and evaluation of both routes, the option of the Narva Bay, which affects the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve was considered preferable. The company's arguments are simple: the Narva Bay option is shorter, more convenient and, apparently, cheaper.
The Kurgalsky Nature Reserve is an area of high conservation value for the Eastern Baltic Sea region. It is established in 2000, with a status of reserve (‘zakaznik’), and has of regional importance in Russia. It is included in the network of HELCOM Baltic Sea Marine Protected Areas and RAMSAR Convention list of protected wetlands of international importance. It is situated at the south-west coast of the Gulf of Finland, close to Estonian border. Its total area is 60 000 ha including 38 400 ha of marine area. Marine and coastal biotope complexes of the reserve are very diverse and undisturbed. Biotopes are represented by sandy and moraine coasts, dunes, reed beds, reefs, coastal meadows, islets, surface boulder ridges, mudflats, underwater and surface sandbanks, with or without vegetation. Shallow areas of marine part of the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve serve as a spawning ground for many commercial fish species, as well as a habitat for several fish and lamprey species, endangered in the Baltic Sea region. The Kurgalsky Nature Reserve is an important breeding area for many species of marine birds and stopover for migrating birds, including those listed in the HELCOM’s Red List of Baltic Breeding Birds. The Reserve is the key area for the Baltic ringed seal haul-outs in the Gulf of Finland. It is also breeding and foraging area for ringed seal and important area for the Baltic grey seal haul-outs.
The construction of the North Stream 2 Natural Gas Pipeline at the Kurgalsky Nature Reserve means the destruction of all living things in a strip of land 85 meters wide and about 3.7 kilometres long. Here, the trees will be felled and the soil removed, all in order to lay two pipes and to build a road. The pipeline will pass through an old-growth forest and a unique relict dune.
Scientists have found a large number of rare and endangered species of animals and plants listed in the Red Books of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, Russia and the Leningrad Region on the proposed route of the gas pipeline. To exemplify, a nest of a white-tailed eagle - a rare bird of prey for the North-West of Russia - was discovered last year very close to the strip allocated for the construction. The nest is located only fifty meters away from the center of the route marked by pegs and benchmarks. That means that even if the nest will not be physically destroyed, these sensitive birds will abandon it. The construction of the gas pipeline can also affect the key habitats of rare marine mammals: the gray seal and the Baltic Ringed seal. North Stream 2 Natural Gas Pipeline will irreversibly destroy the habitat of rare animals and plants, which is directly prohibited by Russian laws "On Environmental Protection" and "On Wildlife." In addition, this is contrary to the requirements of the Ramsar Convention. The construction of the gas pipeline is also prohibited by the regime of protection of the Kurgalsky reserve. Hence, laying the pipeline will also violate the law "On Specially Protected Natural Territories”.
The decision to choose Narva Bay affecting Kurgalsky Nature Reserve as the main route of the The North Stream 2 Natural Gas Pipeline is proposed by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology of the Russian Federation. This violates the requirements of Russian legislation on Nature Protected Areas (NPAs). NPAs provisions prohibit any construction within territory of the refuge. Moreover, this decision does not take into account the view point by wide range of Russian stakeholders. As in March 2017, representatives of a dozen of various environmental and scientific organizations expressed their explicit and unanimous view against the pipe-laying across the Kurgalsky natural reserve. Furthermore, is another interesting fact illustrates how double standards are applied in the implementation of the project. In Russia, the main method of constructing a 3.7 km long pipeline section is the usual digging of trenches. In Germany, on the other hand, the laying of the on-shore pipeline will require the construction of a two-pass microtunnel. Thus, in Russia, the trench will cut through the unique reserve while in Germany the gas pipeline will be laid underground, without affecting the natural landscape. Such a difference between these two approaches can probably be explained by the fact that the German authorities have imposed harsh environmental conditions. Russia authorities, however, have not done so.