General presentation of the strait
The narrowest part of the Gulf of Bothnia, between Sweden and Finland, is called Kvarken. The distance from coast to coast is about 80 km and between the outermost islands only about 25 km. The Kvarken divides the Botnian Bay in the North from the Bothnian Sea in the South and forms a shallow underwater threshold in the Gulf of Bothnia.
Description of the strait
The deepest spot in the Kvarken is only about 25 m. On the Finnish side there is a large archipelago with many islands many of them have permanent inhabitants. The coastline and the shores are shallow and as the land rising is about 0,8 mm every year the scenery in the archipelago changes rapidly. The Ostrobothnian mainland is low with small rivers and fertile soil. On the Swedish side the archipelago is smaller and the shores are steeper. Especially in the southern part of Västerbotten and in Örnsköldsvik in the High Coast area the archipelago is quite different than in Finland.
The Kvarken Region consists of the counties Ostrobothnia, Southern Ostrobothnia and Central Ostrobothnia in Finland and the County of Västerbotten and the municipality of Örnsköldsvik in Sweden. The Kvarken region has about 750 000 inhabitants.
The Kvarken Archipelago together with the High Coast in Sweden form a transboundary UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. The UNESCO World Heritage status was received because of the unique geological formations in the area, and because the area is the best place in the world in which to witness land uplift.
Cross-boundary cooperation in the strait
Throughout history, people have had lively cooperation over the Kvarken Strait. Passengers, mail and trading goods has been transported over the strait, people work, study, do business and have relatives and friends on the other side of the strait etc. The Kvarken Council is a cross-border cooperation association formed by the cities of Vaasa, Kokkola, Seinäjoki and Pietarsaari, and the three Regional Councils of Ostrobothnia in Finland, as well as the Regional Council of Västerbotten and the city of Örnsköldsvik in Sweden. It is governed by a non-profit bi-national organization. The council is one of eleven official cross-border operators funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The Board has 6 members from Finland and 6 members from Sweden. Kvarken Council was founded in 1972 and has had approximately 100 different projects in tourism, university programmes, infrastructure, food, business, education, culture etc. Infrastructure is a basic precondition and requirement for the business and industry in the region - good harbours, railway, roads, logistic centres and airtraffic connections.
Main environmental challenges of the strait
The biggest environmental challenge of the strait is overfertilization (so called eutrophication) caused by agriculture and other sources of emission. The overfertilization causes rapid algae growth and acidification. Another environmental challenge, linked to the UNESCO World Heritage status, is how to preserve natural values while enabling growth and prosperity in the society. The UNESCO World Heritage status is both an opportunity and a challenge.
The Nordic Logistic Center and Botniabanan, the new Swedish coastal railway are excellent examples on big infrastructure projects where the biodiversity and preservation of natural heritage have been taken into account. Also windpower investments are seen as an important economic issue and they can contribute to long-term sustainable energy supply as to economic growth and social security for the inhabitants in the region.
Merenkurkun Neuvosto ry.
Director Mathias Lindström
Phone: +358 50 9186462
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