The non-tidal Curonian lagoon is a shallow semi-locked
and almost fresh-water body which is located on the
southeastern rim of the Baltic Sea. It is the largest
Baltic Sea lagoon (surface area 1,584 sq. km). The Nemunas
river provides the main water inflow into the Curonian
lagoon, which discharges to the Baltic Sea. July and
August are the warmest months of the year with the main
daily air temperature reaching +17ºC.
Politically, the Curonian lagoon region is divided
in two parts: The northern one belongs to Lithuania
and the southern part to Kaliningrad Oblast, which is
the exclusive territory of Russian Federation.
Geographically, the Curonian lagoon and the adjacent
region form a huge natural entity. The southeastern
Baltic coastal accumulative plain includes three major
parts: The Nemunas delta, the Curonian spit and the
Sambian peninsula. The total area of this region is
app. 4.000 sq. km.
The Curonian spit is famous for its 31 km long coastal
ridge of 40-60 m high drifting barchans. In 2000 the
entire Curonian spit has been included into the UNESCO
World Heritage List as a cultural landscape of outstanding
value. It is protected within the national parks of
Kuriunerija (Lithuania) and Kurshskayakosa (Russia).
The sandy marine beaches of the Curonian spit together
with nice traditional resorts, mature pinewoods and
the magnificent vistas over the drifting dunes and the
Curonian lagoon form the most valuable tourism resource
of the whole region. Thus making the Curonian lagoon
a tourist destination of an international scale.
The Nemunas delta with a maze of river branches, canals,
polders and wetlands is protected as a wetland of international
importance under the Ramsar convention and as a regional
park. The Nemunas delta is important for the migrating
and breeding birds, particularly, geese, ducks and waders.
The long list of species, the high concentrations recorded
highlights the unique international importance of the
Nemunas delta for the development of eco-tourism.
Managment of sustainable tourism
The Department of Recreation and Tourism at Klaipeda
University together with the EUCC Baltic Office are
the leading institutions facilitating the sustainable
tourism development in the Curonian lagoon area. The
whole process started in 1993 when efforts aimed at
fostering the sustainable development of Rusne island
in the Nemunas delta got support from the EUCC - The
Coastal Union and the promotion of sustainable tourism
became one of the key priorities of the program.
The promotion of sustainable tourism development in
the Curonian Lagoon area is supported mainly by the
external aid sources provided by the European Commission
within the PHARE and TACIS programs (PHARE Partnership,
PHARE ACCESS, PHARE and TACIS Small Project Facility
programs). Support obtained from the Royal Netherlands
Embassy (MATRA KNIP program) and the Baltic American
Partnership Program is also acknowledged gratefully.
The particular projects mentioned above were based
on the farmers to farmers principle and focused on the
development of the sustainable tourism development plan
for the Curonian lagoon region, on the sustainable tourism
demonstration programs in the Nemunas delta and on the
Curonian spit (pictures). As a result several projects
were established in the area: Rusne Rural Tourism Organization,
Rusne Rural Tourism Information and Consultation Center,
Water Tourism Center in Minge. Facilitation of sustainable
tourism development was ensured through a variety of
activities with local communities of Curonian spit and
with administrations of national parks Kursiunerija(Lithuania)
and Kurshskaja kosa (Russia)
Comments and theory
In both the Lithuanian and Russian parts of the Curonian
lagoon region fishing and agriculture have maintained
their leading roles in the local economy during the
1990s and early 2000s. The economic performance of these
sectors and their capacity to provide a decent living
for the local population has declined dramatically because
of the emergence of the market economy and the change
of mechanisms behind the production from a matter of
central planning to local decisions affected by prices
of resources needed and products manufactured.
Tourism is a new emerging opportunity for a truly sustainable
and decent future of the region if its development is
based on the key strengths of the Curonian lagoon region
as an area with outstanding natural amenities.
The Curonian spit is by far the most suitable area
for tourism development in the region, but its status
as a national park appears to ensure a strong legal
protection against large-scale developments outside
the areas already developed. It seems very important
to discuss whether the spit should be reserved mainly
for low-scale exclusive tourism, affordable only to
foreigners and rich locals, or whether there should
also be facilities for locals with "normal"
incomes. At present the trend seems to be the first.
From the rural, agro-, eco-, and water-tourism perspectives,
the Nemunas delta is much more attractive than the Curonian
spit. But whether the expected sustainable tourism development
opportunities will be realized and remains open to questioning.
The utilization of rich natural resources for sustainable
tourism development in the Curonian lagoon region and
its economic and social recovery will be possible only
if the region bases its development on essential principles
Without deliberate positive actions quite a few events
might have detrimental effects upon the tourism development
and thereby on the social welfare and the long-term
economic growth of the region. A particularly harmful
situation might occur if the region lacks the proper
attention and support from the central governments of
Russia and Lithuania, because the bureaucracy can strangle
local enterprising initiatives.
Efforts should be made to endorse tourism development
in the Curonian lagoon region towards a sustainable
use of local natural resources and maintenance of cultural
heritage, facilitation of site-specific development
of small-scale leisure facilities according to local
peculiarities and carrying capacity of landscapes and
ecosystems. This could increase the local knowledge
on the sustainable use of natural resources through
special training programs, the local 'centers of excellence'
diverse programs of education and social integration
for different target groups.
Exercise for user
What essential principles of sustainability
should be followed in order to utilize rich natural
resources for sustainable tourism development
in the Curonian lagoon region?
Further information on sustainable tourism development
in the Curonian lagoon region can be obtained from the
Department of Recreation and Tourism, Klaipeda University,
H. Manto street, 84, KLAIPEDA, LT-5808, Lithuania, e-mail:
Tourism Fund, Ukmerges street, 20, VILNIUS, LT-2600,
lagoon web-based information system
Exercise for user
What are the key prerequisites
for the successful implementation of the sustainable
tourism development program in the Curonian lagoon