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Monday's papers: Regional reshuffle, Baltic Sea nitrogen, defence tunnels

Dailies start off the working week with a take on the structuring of the coming health care reform, a piece on the city of Tampere polluting the Baltic Sea and the Finnish military improving its defence capabilities.

salmisaari voimala helen helsinki tunneli syvin paikka hiili hiilivarasto siilo
Hundreds of kilometres of underground tunnels would give Helsinki a fighting chance in a direct offensive. Image: Vesa Marttinen / Yle

Top Nordic daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that researchers have come up with a model for the social service and health care reform ('sote') that would make the system ideally functional – and the map looks nothing like the government's 18-region plan.

The reform proposal would divide Finland into 18 different governing regions in addition to the semi-autonomous Åland. Political science experts Timo Aro and Timo Widbom from the University of Helsinki drew up an alternative and, they say, far more practical basis for the reform. Instead of 18, there would be just 12 or even seven administrative regions.

Each such region would have a central city where services would be concentrated and monitored.

"The distance from the borders of the health care region is paramount in choosing a main city. It needs to be as equidistant as possible to ensure practicality," Aro says in HS.

The researchers published the hypothetical model in order to bring new perspective to the sote talks, which have been ongoing for years and have not produced much convincing data. Now Widbom and Aro are saying that with a little extra effort the reform could serve the needs of all Finns with just a little vision, and by paying attention to the road network.

"Large-scale reforms are not made to benefit the current age, but the times to come," Aro says philosophically in the article.

Eutrophication alert

Meanwhile regional paper Aamulehti follows up earlier reports that the city of Tampere is guilty of dumping waste nitrogen into its waterways, with the chemical ending up in the Baltic Sea where it contributes to the eutrophication of the entire system.

It's not just that the city's residents are adding to the problem, but Tampere is actually a main offender among Finland's larger cities, because it is located inland.

AL writes that the EU obliges all member states to scrub at least 70 percent of the nitrogen from all waste water (from drains and toilets) in each city with more than 10,000 residents. But Finland has a deal in place that only demands cities located on the coast to adhere to the minimum. Coastal cities dump their waste water straight into the sea so they must adhere to the EU regulation, whereas water dumped from inland towns may not do so and would also pollute rivers and lakes on its way to the Baltic Sea.

The worst chemical offenders, experts say, are phosphorus and nitrogen. About 90 percent of all phosphorus is usually eradicated from the water cycle – 97 percent in Tampere – but that isn't enough.

"Every person produces about one kilogram of phosphorus and about five kilos of nitrogen per year," Finnish Environment Institute specialist Seppo Knuuttila says in AL. "How much of that makes its way into the sea depends on the effectiveness of each city's water purification system."

Here's to hoping that the Viinikanlahti waste water treatment can step up its purification efficiency and take Tampere off the top Baltic Sea polluters list in the years to come.

Tunnel advantage

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat features a piece on domestic security, following an article in the Wall Street Journal about the 200-odd kilometres of underground tunnels crisscrossing beneath Helsinki. The passages offer an important tactical advantage, should the city ever be attacked, IS writes.

Russia will organise the Zapad 2017 military exercises in September. While the eastern neighbour prepares for the war games, the Finnish Defence Forces are rehearsing for a potential Crimea-style lightning offensive.

"Russia's actions in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine have made the Finnish military return to its roots as a standing army. The Defence Forces have acted more in a training capacity for a long time, with the Army especially now stepping up as a standby force," military expert Arto Pulkki says in IS.

Last week Finland passed a law outlawing "little green men", or military forces operating without recognisable insignia.

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