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22 Sep, 2007 01:48

Nordstream pipe may take another twist

A UNESCO world heritage site Sweden's Island of Gotland is wrapped in a heated debate about the route of Russian gas to mainland Europe via the Nordstream pipeline.

For a nation whose empire was defeated by the Russians in the 1700's, the Nordstream pipeline plan has aroused new concerns of what might come from the east. Gazprom and its German partners are building a 1,200 kilometre gas pipe from Northern Russia to Northern Germany. The route plans to bypass Eastern Europe, sensitive Estonian waters, and the Swedish Island of Gotland.

But there the consortium also wants to come ashore and transform one Gotland village into a massive construction and transit point.

The sleepy fishing village of Slite in the north of the island – it’s there that Nordstream wants to spend $US 7.8 BLN in broadening harbour and making it much deeper than it is now.

The theory is that when Nordstream is finished the local community will benfit from a new port.

But the scheme isn't without controversy, as, Bertil Klintbom, the man who gave the plan the green light knows: “Of course there are fears of noise, pollution from the ships and things like that. But also a lot of people are in favour of the project. This way Slita will liven up more and there will be something happening, and the port will be more usable in the future”.

Fear is key in the relationship between the Gotlanders and the Nordstream pipeline people, fear of environmental catastrophe, and the fear that Russia may exert some kind of influence.

As the debate continues Nordstream insists environmental, social and economic issues are being dealt with. But as far as Gotland goes, they are waiting for the politicians in the capital Stockholm, who may have the power to force Nordstream to take another twist or turn.