The EKOenergy team rows for free-flowing rivers

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27.07.2018

Last weekend, our EVS EKOenergy team went to Leirikari, near Rovaniemi, to participate in Sieriniemen siunaus, a rowing event taking place on Kemijoki river in order to defend free-flowing rivers.

Kemijoki river is Finland’s longest river. It reaches the sea at the City of Kemi at the North of the Gulf of Bothnia. By some counts it is over 550 km long, starting as small rivulets in Russian and Finnish Lapland, flowing through wilderness areas well off the beaten track before arriving at more and more man-made environments towards its lower reaches.

Historically, on this river there was a well-known fishing site downstream where fishermen could catch sea trout and salmon. The headwaters of River Kemijoki offered also smaller-scale fishing experience in a wilder area where you could find brown trout.

In 1949, the construction of the first power plant Isohaara began near the mouth of the river, followed up by the construction of 20 other power plant dams along the length of the river. These constructions have endangered the survival of many rare species and wiped out the Kemijoki salmon stock – which was once one of the richest in Europe.

The Isohaara hydropower plant marked the death of one of Europe’s largest Atlantic salmon rivers and the end of wild salmon fishing in this area. Many citizens complained but were left unheard and the environmental impacts were not even debated. Despite these terrible conditions, the corporation Kemijoki Oy is considering a new construction of Sierilä power plant on the last unconstructed stretch of the river.

That is why the locals and activists from the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation in Rovaniemi decided to show their disagreement by rowing this stretch of Kemijoki river as a peaceful protest. More than 20 boats showed up waving their flags with pride.

As a part of our EVS experience, but also as activists, we joined the movement and rowed all in all 35 km in two days in a joyous -nevertheless determined- atmosphere. The finishing line was in a small village called Oikarainen where every year a fair takes place. During the fair, funds were raised through a lottery, in which one of the rowing boats was raffled for this occasion. The money raised was then donated to the Rovaniemi branch of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.

Even though our team came back with many mosquito bites and painful hands covered in blisters, we are really proud of taking part in this demonstration. As environmental activists we truly hope that the negative impacts of the dam construction will be considered and a more ecological choice of energy production will be made.

Written by Julia Urbaniak

Footnotes:

https://www.sll.fi/mita-me-teemme/vedet/the-time-for-damming-river-rapids-is-over

http://www.fishinginfinland.fi/river_kemijoki