Access to clean water and improved sanitation and waste management remain some of the most pressing environmental challenges facing Romania according to the second Environmental Performance Review of Romania published today. The Review, performed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), takes stock of progress made by the country in the management of its environment since the country was first reviewed in 2001.
Water management is one of the key issues for Romania. A positive trend has been a dramatic decrease in the demand for water, from 20 billion cubic metres (m3) in 1990 to 7.7 billion m3 in 2011. This is owing, among others, to the installation of water meters, increased water prices and the use of modern technology in industry, but also as a decline in water needs for agriculture. On the other hand, demand is expected to double by 2020 to reach 15 billion m3, according to a survey by the National Institute of Hydrology and Water Management, pointing at rising demand in the industrial sector and for livestock, as well as for irrigation.
Access to wastewater collection is still a key priority, with only some 57 per cent of the population connected to wastewater collection systems. In rural areas, which are home to approximately 45 per cent of the population, this proportion plunges to just 4 per cent, which means that rural wastewater management remains the major challenge for the coming years.
An important factor in the low rates for connection to wastewater systems in rural areas is the lack of a coordinated approach. Often, water supply and sanitation networks are not introduced simultaneously in rural areas, due to varying financing plans and priorities. Water supply is frequently given higher priority than sanitation. However, households can only be connected to the water supply network if they are already hooked up to a sewerage disposal system. These discrepancies often lead to illegal household connections, in addition to which the lack of sewage disposal places intense stress on groundwater and surface water.
As a riparian country of the Danube River, its delta and the Black Sea, the healthy status of these major water resources is also a future concern for Romania. Currently, these waters receive pollutants from diffuse agricultural sources, especially from chemical fertilizer use, along with inadequate operation of wastewater treatment plants. The future economic development in the Danube River Basin region will only increase pollution from agriculture, industry and settlements and will produce a risk of failure to attain environmental objectives unless effective measures are taken.
In particular, pressures from land use on natural habitats have reached unprecedented levels in some sectors of the Romanian coastal zone of the Black Sea. A special problem is the coastal erosion that affects some 57 per cent of the length of the coastline, and which is mainly due to the reduction in the amount of silt carried by the Danube River as a consequence of the implementation of hydraulic works over the entire basin.
With regard to industrial waste, positive trends have been witnessed: shutting down some Romanian mines and modernizing others that have remained in operation has led to significant changes in industrial waste generation. The generation of non-hazardous waste from mining has decreased by half and hazardous waste from mining has decreased by 95 per cent.
Other good news is the volume of recycled secondary raw materials, which is growing fast, reflecting large investments in waste recycling infrastructure. Also, coverage of rural areas by waste collection systems has increased considerably from less than 10 per cent in 2004 to 38 per cent in 2009. However, there is a need for further improvements in this area. Waste separation and recycling infrastructure are not yet sufficiently developed: less than 3 per cent of collected municipal solid waste throughout the country is recycled.
The Review concludes with a set of 39 recommendations to the Government to improve management of its environment, to better integrate the goals of sustainable development into sectoral policies, to promote greater accountability to the public and to strengthen cooperation with the international community. The recommendations were approved by the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy.
The Review and its highlights are available online at http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=32615.
Note to editors
In 1993, at the Second “Environment for Europe” Ministerial Conference, ministers requested UNECE to undertake Environmental Performance Reviews in countries not members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. By 2004, the first cycle of reviews was completed. UNECE is now finalizing the second round of Reviews, taking stock of the progress made since the first review, and putting particular emphasis on policy implementation, integration and financing, and the socioeconomic interface with the environment.
At the seventh “Environment for Europe” Ministerial Conference in Astana in 2011, ministers invited UNECE to conduct the third cycle of Reviews, with a focus, among others, on environmental governance and financing in a green economy context, and environmental mainstreaming in priority sectors.
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