Monday's papers: Urban growth, Tallinn tunnel, dust and pollen

Uneven urban growth, competing plans for a Helsinki-Tallinn tunnel, dust and pollen in the air are all topics in Monday's Finnish press.

Image: Toni Pitkänen / Yle

The business daily Kauppalehti (siirryt toiseen palveluun)says that the post-election government will need to look at population trends and create a programme to deal with urban growth.

This article points to the rapid urbanization underway in the country and a growing gap in regional development. Kauppalehti writes that the latest projections show that in 20 years' time Finland in practice will have only three actively growing urban centres. Helsinki, Tampere and Turku will form a triangle encompassing half of the nation's population.

Even with low birth rates, internal immigration will contribute to the population of the Helsinki region expanding by 270,000 by the year 2040, while the population of both Tampere and Turku will be up by 30,000 by then.

Kauppalehti sees a growing shift not only from rural to urban areas, but also from the outlying areas of cities towards the urban centres. This raises its own challenges. Growth centres will have to be able to provide affordable housing, daycare services, schools and other services.

The post-election government, this paper argues, should recognise these trends and formulate an urbanisation policy for inclusion in its programme. This will mean a commitment to significant investment in, for example, rail traffic, so that not everyone will have to live in the centre of the capital. Also, the funding to local governments that comes out of the national budget will have to be re-examined in light of population forecasts.

Kauppalehti points out that smaller communities can also work on their own to be attractive locations for living and working. It notes that for example, the towns of Seinäjoki and Rauma have been more successful in creating cooperation with corporate partners than have big cities. Companies especially appreciate fast zoning processes and opportunities to take part in providing services for the public sector.

Meanwhile, increasingly large parts of the country are suffering from a shortage of workers as the population ages and birth rates fall. This paper says that internal migration would help ease the problem, and that the government should take steps to ease the path for moving to take up jobs. Migration, it adds, is a slow means of dealing with the problems related to population structure, but there are few alternatives.

Tallinn tunnel tug of war

A proposed tunnel under the Gulf of Finland between Helsinki and the Estonia capital, Tallinn, may move a significant step forward on Monday when the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council reviews its latest zoning plan, reports Helsingin Sanomat (siirryt toiseen palveluun).

There are two competing projects to create the 100km tunnel linking the two cities. One is based on a study commissioned by a group of local authorities in the Helsinki region and is backed by the Transport and Communications Ministry. The other is a private venture led by Finnish marketing guru and entrepreneur Peter Vesterbacka who picked up a 100 million euro investment for his project late last year.

The first of these two calls for the tunnel link to run to the Helsinki airport via the central railway station and the city centre. Vesterbacka's plan routes the tunnel connection through the city of Espoo, just to the west of the capital.

According to Helsingin Sanomat, the chair of the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council, and the city of Espoo, are willing to zone for both routes. This is opposed by a range of official bodies, including the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency, the Ministry of Transport and Communications and the cities of Helsinki and Vantaa. They all want to see a single route, the one through central Helsinki, decided on now.

Regional council chair Markku Markkula told the paper that he believes that both options need to be kept open. Right now, there are no tax funds earmarked for the project, no city funding, and no EU funding.

Start of dust and pollen season

Typical springtime annoyances for many people, stuffy noses, coughs and itchy eyes caused by dust and pollen are early this year in many parts of Finland. Monday’s Metro free-sheet reports on information from the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY saying that drier streets and a few sunny days mean that there is already lots of dust in the air.

Most of the dust kicked up by traffic in urban areas consists of particles of asphalt and sand used on streets over the winter months. Studded snow tyres in particular chew up road surfaces, creating particles that get trapped until the snow and ice melt.

Dust levels can vary widely from day to day, depending on the weather.

As for pollen counts, Metro notes a report issued by the Aerobiology Unit of the University of Turku on Friday saying the small amounts of alder and hazel carried on winds into Finland have already been detected in the air in southern parts of the country. These two common early sources of pollen usually start blooming in southern Finland in late March.

A pollen information service (siirryt toiseen palveluun) is provided by the Aerobiology Unit of the University of Turku. General air quality monitoring data (siirryt toiseen palveluun) in the greater Helsinki region is available from Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY.