The Nord Stream Project is the world's longest sub-sea gas pipeline system. The twin 1,224 km offshore pipeline through the Baltic Sea delivers 55 bcm of natural gas each year, supplying European customers with Russian gas. The project is a major feat of engineering, involving complex logistics, suppliers and contractors from all over the world.

As this is the first pipeline system in the Baltic Sea, an environmentally sensitive area, and given that the Project is lender financed, Nord Stream had to demonstrate that the project had minor or no impact to the environment and could be built in accordance with the highest environmental and social standards. The entire process, including national Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) and UN ECE Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundry Context (Espoo 1991), along permitting, monitoring and reporting had to be robust and transparent.

The Baltic Sea is a focus area of governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). It is highly sensitive, due to its unique water conditions and depths, (shallow brackish waters), density of protected areas, importance for fish and fisheries, marine traffic density and future infrastructure projects. Parts of the seabed are also strewn with mines and Chemical Warfare Agents which pose a hazard to the environment and the pipeline construction works.

For most countries around the Baltic Sea it was their first exposure to a large subsea pipeline, therefore national authorities and lenders were focused on the need for a transparent and defensible project planning process starting with a risk assessment and an EIA. It was an elementary requirement for Nord Stream to prove that such a huge project could be executed with no or only minor impact to the environment and to other stakeholders of the Baltic Sea region.

This paper addresses the environmental and social management framework in which the Project's implementation is managed, key aspects of the permitting and construction processes and the preliminary results of an extensive environmental monitoring programme. Key lessons learned include the need for a timely and transparent engagement with all stakeholders.

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