Third Environmental Performance Review of the Republic of Moldova shows waste management and biodiversity conservation remain top priorities
Despite progress in recent years in the country’s policy framework related to the environment and sustainable development, the Republic of Moldova faces significant challenges with regard to wastewater management, municipal solid waste management and biodiversity conservation. These are the main findings of the third Environmental Performance Review (EPR) of the Republic of Moldova, undertaken by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).
The findings were presented by UNECE and Moldovan authorities on 5 June 2014 in Chisinau, to coincide with the celebration of World Environment Day.
The Review notes that, since the Second EPR in 2005, the Republic of Moldova has been developing sectoral policies, such as agriculture, energy and water, which have an impact on the environment. These include the National Energy Efficiency Programme for 2011–2020, supported by three-year national action plans; the National Strategy for Sustainable Development of the Agro-industrial Sector for 2008–2015, which seeks to combat land degradation through afforestation and the creation of new vineyards and orchards; and the 2007 Strategy for Water Supply and Sanitation of Communities, which sets specific medium-term (2008–2012) and long-term (2012–2025) objectives, but without a national water action plan and financing.
A key instrument to address the serious issue of soil degradation is the National Programme for Conservation and Improvement of Soil Fertility for 2011–2020, which promotes the use of green manure, afforestation of highly eroded grasslands and the cultivation of grassy crops between rows in orchards and vineyards. Organic agriculture is also making some head way in the country, with 253 farms and some 32,000 hectares, or 1.7 per cent of the total agricultural lands, either certified or under conversion for organic agriculture.
Despite this policy framework development, however, the country faces a number of challenges, in particular, with regard to wastewater management. The situation regarding wastewater treatment in the country is bleak. In 2010, only 17 of 198 wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) (9%) were in a satisfactory state, 112 (56%) required repairs and 69 (35%) required full refurbishment. Most WWTPs are only used in practice for mechanical treatment. As a result, discharges from WWTPs into water bodies contain organic substances, ammonium and nitrates. Many industrial WWTPs are old and obsolete. Currently, a significant amount of untreated industrial wastewater is discharged directly into rivers.
Another key area for concern is municipal solid waste management; the current waste management practice relies mainly on disposal in dumpsites. These are, in the majority of cases, small, uncontrolled and operating without an environmental permit. Only 12 national level permits have been issued for disposal sites in the country. The remaining 1,864 disposal sites are operating on the basis of land allocation decisions issued by a local council.
Biodiversity conservation is also an issue in the country. Only about 2% of the country’s grasslands are in a natural or semi-natural state. This low percentage is additionally fragmented: intensive agriculture has pushed the ecological integrity of the steppe habitat to its limits. Today, natural steppe communities have been preserved only in small and isolated areas: only five protected areas preserving steppe vegetation exist, with a total area of less than 1 per cent of the country’s surface. It is estimated that this is too low to protect the gene pool of steppe plant communities in the country. The biodiversity of the steppe has been particularly altered and affected due to intensive grazing, soil erosion and salinization and the intensive use of fertilizers.
The Review concludes with a set of 41 recommendations to assist the Republic of Moldova in improving its environmental management, 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 in October 2013.
The EPR of the Republic of Moldova is based on an information-gathering mission to the country in February 2013, and takes stock of progress made since 2005 in 10 areas of importance to the country related to environmental policymaking, implementation and financing, environmental monitoring, climate change, water, waste, biodiversity conservation, agriculture and cooperation with other countries on the environment.
The Review and its highlights are available online from http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=35481.
For more information on the EPR Programme, please visit: http://www.unece.org/env/epr or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note to editors
In 1993, at the Second “Environment for Europe” (EfE) Ministerial Conference, ministers requested UNECE to undertake EPRs in countries that were not Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development members. By 2004, the first cycle of reviews was completed (with the exception of Turkmenistan carried out in 2011). UNECE is now finalizing the second round of Reviews, taking stock of the progress made since the first round, and putting particular emphasis on policy implementation, integration and financing, and the socioeconomic interface with the environment.
At the Seventh EfE Ministerial Conference in Astana in 2011, Ministers and heads of delegations reaffirmed their support for the UNECE EPR Programme. They encouraged UNECE to pursue a third cycle focusing, among other issues, on environmental governance and financing in a green economy context, countries’ cooperation with the international community and environmental mainstreaming in priority sectors. Since 2013, UNECE has carried out third cycle EPRs in Montenegro, the Republic of Moldova and Serbia.