Developing settlements of Lower Estonia

The Lower Estonian rural areas are relatively sparsely populated; people have gathered in villages situated on lands with favourable agricultural and building conditions. The West and North Estonian settlements, oriented to industry and service, have managed to retain their fields of activity. They are thus more prosperous than those in Central and South Estonia with their narrowly agricultural approach. The development of Lower Estonia is guaranteed by the closeness of towns and transport routes and more diverse opportunities for recreation thanks to the sea and summer resorts. Local development is also encouraged by the mobility of the population, and the tendency of people to leave and then return to the county. The coastal area is a special development resource: during the Soviet period, most Estonian coastal areas were closed border zones, movement was restricted, local life went into decline, and only military enterprises were developed. With the opening up of the border zones, new possibilities arose for fishing, tourism and entrepreneurship.

The most sparsely populated areas are in the Lower Estonian inland, in the region of marshes and fens. Estonia intermedia reaches from south-west to north-east, crossing the whole of mainland Estonia, including the Pärnu depression and Kõrvemaa. The Võrtsjärv depression area north of Võrtsjärv, the north-eastern Alutaguse depression areas north of Lake Peipsi, and the relatively low marshy western part of mainland Estonia are sparsely populated. The settlements in these regions abound in forest massive, large rivers and marshes, and the inhabitants are mostly engaged in forestry, hunting, local agriculture and small industrial enterprises. There are many nature reserves and tourist businesses in the area.

The centre of Lower Estonia with its quickly developing economy and lively cultural life is the summer capital Pärnu. In the Estonian town network, Pärnu ranks fifth in terms of population. As with previously mentioned larger Estonian towns, Pärnu’s surroundings also have a denser settlement. The share of urban population in Pärnu county as a whole is relatively large; with 65 per cent of people living in towns.

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