The Curonian spit is a long thin peninsula north of Russia’s Kaliningrad. This national park separates the Baltic Sea from the Curonian lagoon. Half belongs to Russia, the other half to Lithuania. The six resorts along the Lithuanian stretch are crammed with hotels, bars and restaurants, while the Russian part is underdeveloped. Now the Kaliningrad region authorities eye to improve the situation. However, the move might have a negative affect.
Although the Russian side of the Curonian Spit is beautiful and serene, there’s hardly anyone here to appreciate it. Very little has been done to accommodate tourists. The government now wants to change that.
Kaliningrad’s governors have ambitious plans to transform this area and attract one million tourists a year.
But for local bird experts this news is worrying. Anatoly has worked for thirty years there at one of the world’s oldest bird-research station. As part of the main migration route, the Curonian Spit is a resting place for our feathered friends.
With millions of them stopping there each year, it’s been dubbed Bird’s Bridge.
He says the tourists will do more harm than good.
“If tourists arrive in their thousands and are allowed to roam freely and drive their cars all over the place then this will disturb the birds during the nesting season. And it will only destroy this natural animal habitat,” says Anatoly.
Environmentalists agree, and say the government has its priorities wrong.
“The aim of this national park should be to protect nature, and not to turn the area into an overcrowded holiday resort. The money would be better spent on preserving the beauty, reinforcing the sand dunes and protecting the trees against storm damage,” believes Aleksandra Korolyova from the Ecoprotection movement.
The government says its planned investment in tourism is worth it. The revenue will go towards environmental schemes.
But for many people there, it’s a case of getting the balance right. They say a tourist invasion could destroy this currently unspoilt land.