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City of Trees Conflict - Haabersti Willow - Haabersti Pajupuu, Estonia


Väike Õismäe (Little Blossom Hill) park-residences-area gained high recognition in 1986 for modern sustainable city planning. 1.5 km2 (370 acres) Väike Õismäe organic city-cell was planned with aesthetic houses 5-, 9-, 16-storeys high in golden proportion and >68% lushious green green area for residence to spend quality time. Ancient old trees growing in the area of construction were preserved. 16 storeys towers around the central artificial lake ending in a “golden spiral” in the North rim of the area, artificial lake in the middle, located near the Baltic sea (Finnish gulf) and on the Harku lake. Väike Õismäe planning is registered cultural (architecture) heritage of Estonian from 20th century. It was build in the conditions of Soviet Union wo obstacles of private property and in conditions of unlimited resources. The 

 Tallinn City – The City of Trees – The City of Culture – at the eve of Estonian Presidency of the Council of the EU (#EU2017EE)-,  decided to expand the Paldiski highway located beside Väike Õismäe park-housing, on account of the land of the housing area, where grew forest and trees protecting housing from noise and pollution of the highway behind the forest. But the Tallinn City planned to bringing busiest intersection and road in City some 25-30m closer to to housing in parallel destroying the protective green zone between houses and Paldiski highway.

Open field logging caused the houses to be completely naked to pollution of the neighbouring street. Noise levels have risen from 60 dB to 80<100 dB, i.e. 33-66% above normative, rendering the valuable housing unusable for living, causing >100 million € real estate value drop.

People living in the area were not involved in the decision making and refuse the highway to be built.

People do not accept cutting of ~1000 trees protecting them against noise and air pollution, that also served as a green corridor connecting Tallinn Zoo park (protected species - "northern bat" constant living area) and Harku lake green zones. Plans to build grand light traffic tunnels will probably drain Zoo green area surface water resulting in death of the forest in the area.

To stop this insane plan of destroying the essential features of park-housing-area - trees, park - People set up camp under a grand old White Willow (Salix Alba Triste; Traue-Weide) with 4.3m trunk circumference.

Contactor NORDECON  asked the Police to remove People from under majestic Willow tree that is over 140 years old - older then the Estonian State that shall celebrate its 100th birthday of self-determination.

People took the majestic natural monument – the Silver Willow tree - symbolizing sustainable planning and cultural values under their protection and camp since May 2017 peacefully under the Tree to force the City to not extend closer to the road on the park-housing area, to restore the forest, not implement the plan causing extensive environmental changes.

Contractor - NORDECON - has tried to use Police as a tool to remove the People. The Estonian Police refused to use force against peaceful people, who refuse to leave and claim for civil dispute.

As the situation was on standstil – the people were lawyering up and waiting for Tallinn City to step into dialogue.

Just 5 days after the Estonian parliament made a suggestion to the City of Tallinn to start dialogue between the people and the City - the City asked for help from Police to remove the peaceful protestors by force. On the 27.06.2017 some 30-50 police officers and private security company (K-Security) officers used force against the people camping and protesting. Seven people were arrested and taken into custody for peacefully protesting for preservation of the natural and cultural heritage (Väike Õismäe park-residencesdistrict) and the great Willow as a symbol of the sustainable housing area.[1]

Basic Data

Name of conflict:City of Trees Conflict - Haabersti Willow - Haabersti Pajupuu, Estonia
State or province:Harju Co.
Location of conflict:Tallinn
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific commodities:Land
Expansion of roads for motor traffic

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Main highway #8 - Paldiski road -, was moved 30 m closer to residences of 2399 people to the place where extremely valuable ancient vegetation was growing.

As result of bringing the road closer and logging forested area protecting the dwellings of residential area noise levels increased to 80<100dB making the residences and area with 1000 homes was rendered unsuable for living.

Some 1400 valuable ancient trees logged in Tallinn City - the City of Trees. Cut were 2 biggest trees in Tallinn - in The City of Trees:

- Black Alder with 243 cm diameter - 763 cm circumference;

- Aspen with 210 cm diameter - 660 cm circumference.

In total were cut 18 ancient trees with over 3.14 meter circumference (1 meter diameter).

Peaceful resistance and media attention to the injustice was drawn by people the whos homes were being rendered useless. Tallinn City and Estonian Police applied violence against 2399 people who´s 1000 home´s noise levels exceed today EU normatives. As is public knowledge - 2399 people were put in 10-27% higher danger of cardiac stroke ( Urban development over dead bodies of citizens!

Project area:60
Level of Investment:14500000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:45000
Start of the conflict:01/05/2017
Company names or state enterprises:Tallinn City - Kalle Klandorf, Relo Ligi, Taavi Aas, Kalev Kallo, Marek Jürgenson, Anu Hallik-Jürgenstein, (Tallinn, Reval) from Estonia - Customer
Nordecon AS (Nordecon) from Estonia - Contractor
Arborest OÜ, Heiki Hanso (Heiki Hanso) from Estonia - treecutter
K-Security (K-Security) from Estonia - cultural heritage destruction squad
K-Projekt AS (K-Projekt) from Estonia - paper architecture planner
Relevant government actors:Estonian Cultural Heritage Board - Siim Raie, avoided the protection of European Cultural heritage (Väike Õismäe park-housing area) in contradiction to 1985 Granada convention of protection of European architectural heritage;
Estonian Ministry of Interior - Andres Anvelt, made a precedent in allowing the Police to meddle into civil disputes between the people and the City;
Police and Boarder Guard Director - Elmar Vaher, authorization to use excessive force against Estonian population;
Estonian Environmental Board - allowed to remove active bird nests during nesting season.
International and Finance InstitutionsTallinn City (Tallinn, Reval) from Estonia - financier
European Union Taxpayers (EU) from Belgium - Unclear if involved
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:MTÜ Tartu Pargid, Ühing Eesti Ting and Rinaldo Vahtel sought to stop the cutting down of a symbolic white willow located in front of Paldiski Highway 161 and 163 by filing an application for interim measures with Tallinn Administrative Court. Several activists spent days on the tree and thereafter in jail

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Development of a network/collective action
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Public campaigns
Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Referendum other local consultations
Land occupation
Boycotts of companies-products
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Development of alternative proposals
Official complaint letters and petitions
setting up camp under trees to draw in public awareness, climbing up trees to stop them from being cut down


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Potential: Desertification/Drought, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Global warming
Other Environmental impactsIsolating Zoo green area in Tallinn City - isolating natural habitat on protected "northern bat" species.
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Accidents
Other Health impacts>10% higher cardiac stroke risk for all of population; >27% higher cardiac risk for population >64.5 years of age (look:
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime, Specific impacts on women, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsaccording to WHO noise causes physical and psychological harm to humans resulting in lower ability for performance and potentially death


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Criminalization of activists
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of alternatives:We do not need wider roads. Tallinn City should implement initial plan - sleek and high troughput Haabersti crossing. There is enough room on the other side of the Paldiski road on the opposite side from the naturally and culturally valuable Väike Õismäe park-housing area.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Police used force - meddled into civil dispute between City and People -, no justice was done. The people were forcefully silenced, removed from the residential area of their homes by force. Unbelievable that this is possible in claimably democratic and socially responsible European Union.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Printout from Cultural Heritage registry of Estonia - #1397 - Väike Õismäe planning

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

DELFI Media covering the story

Väike Õismäe - sustainable planning to be desacrated with the project

Parliament member opinion supporting the change of the project

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[1] Police in Tallinn began clearing out demonstrators guarding a white willow in Haabersti slated to be cut down in the course of the reconstruction of an adjacent traffic circle. 27 June 2017. Many photographs in this source.

Meta information

Last update18/08/2019



Väike Õismäe park housing area

planned as sustainable organically functional home of 45000 people

Forest and housing area protective vegetation

Area that was widely open logged

Majestic Willow

Salix Alba

Logging 1

in City of Trees

Väike Õismäe Planning

recognized 1986 by 280 million peoples representatives for sustainable city planning; Willow tree locating in planning marked

Logging 2

in City of Trees





Before and After

Before and After

Sustainable City Cell

Little Blossom Hill park-residence that has partly been destroyed

Noise Map

Illustration of destruction of homes and total neglect of citizens by Tallinn City

Illegal Logging by Tallinn City

Evidence showing illegal logging of ancient trees by Tallinn City during birds nesting season without permit

Väike Õismäe park housing area

Aerial view of 5-, 9- 16-storey houses in golden proportion and 16 storey houses in the inner circle ending in a golden spiral