Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment - FYROM
Chapter 2 - Environmental context
FYR of Macedonia is located in the central part of the Balkan Peninsula, bounded to the north by the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, to the east by Bulgaria, to the south by Greece and to the west by Albania. The country's mainly mountainous territory covers a total area of 25,713 square kilometers. There are three large, natural lakes in the south of the country, well known for their scenic beauty: Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran. The population is approximately two million people, of which about 1.2 million, or 60 %, live in urban areas.
As a constituent republic of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY), the economy of what is now FYR of Macedonia was subject to central planning during the period after World War II (WWII). What had been a largely agrarian economy prior to WWII, experienced dramatic industrial growth and urbanization. State-owned industries consumed raw materials and exploited energy sources at great expense to the nation's environment and natural resources. With little or no effective regulation, forests were cleared, pollutants were emitted into the air, soil and water, and waste was dumped into nearby water bodies or onto open land. In sum, shortterm economic growth took precedence over environmental management and longerterm sustainable development.
In 1991 and 1992, several Yugoslav republics declared their independence. The disintegration of the Yugoslav common Market aggravated economic conditions in the region. Industries began to reduce output, thereby lowering environmental stress to some extent. However, in FYR of Macedonia, as in neighboring countries, the basic, highly polluting industrial processes did not alter measurably, and even fewer resources were available for investment in environmental controls. At the same time, growing urbanization reduced air quality, increased pressure on water supplies, and further exacerbated waste treatment and disposal problems.
FYR of Macedonia remains in a period of transition. During the latter part of the 1990s, the national economy grew at a modest but steady pace, and growth continued in the first half of 2000. Prices have remained relatively stable, if high in certain sectors such as fuel and energy. The average monthly wage for citizens of FYR of Macedonia was approximately $170 USD during 1999, an increase of 3.3 % over 1998. Unemployment levels, however, have remained very high, averaging 36 % in 1997, and 34.5 % in 1998 and 1999. As a result, many families, particularly those in large, rural households, are living in conditions of extreme economic deprivation.
FYR of Macedonia is a multi-ethnic country. The culture, however, is in many ways divided. Strengthening the bonds among the country's communities remains a critical challenge for both the Government and civil society. In the field of environmental protection, it will be important to ensure the fair and equitable sharing of burdens and benefits.
The Environmental situation
In general, the environmental situation in FYR of Macedonia is comparable
to that of other Central and Eastern countries. Within the framework
of the centrally planned economies of the region's former socialist
states, development was seen largely in terms of increasing production
of the industrial and energy sectors. This resulted in the over-exploitation
of natural resources and severe environmental degradation.
In 1996, the Act on Environment and Nature Protection and Promotion (Act on Environment) was adopted. The Act requires the Government to create a National Ecological Plan, and municipalities to establish Local Environmental Action Plans (LEAPs). In 1997, the National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) was developed with input from governmental and non-governmental representatives. At the time of writing, the NEAP remains the most comprehensive report available on the environmental situation in FYR of Macedonia. It provides an overview of economic policy and the environment; environmental conditions; environmental management and policy; and priorities for action.
The NEAP established the following national environmental policy goals for 1997-2001:
Other recently published overviews of the environmental
situation in FYR of Macedonia include The National Environmental Health
Action Plan of the Republic of Macedonia, published by the Ministry
of Health of FYR of Macedonia in 1999, and wthe Strategic Environmental
Analysis of Macedonia, published by the Regional Environmental Center
for Central and Eastern Europe (REC) in June 2000. A comprehensive study
on Wastewater, Water Quality and Solid Waste Management in the FYR of
Macedonia was published in 1999 as a key element of a national water
and waste strategy being developed with support from the EU's Phare
The NEAP rated air pollution "the most important environmental problem in the country." Half of the country's urban population (particularly in the cities of Skopje, Veles, Bitola and Tetovo) are affected by poor air quality. Pollution is caused mainly by industries (e.g., metallurgical plants, thermal power plants) and traffic. In addition to gases and particles containing sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, carbon oxides and nitrogen oxides, significant concentrations of heavy metals, such as lead, zinc and cadmium, are being emitted by some of these sources.
The Republic Hydrometeorological Institute (RHI) uses
a network of 20 monitoring stations to measure air quality. In addition,
the MEPP operates a monitoring system in Skopje that transmits data
on an hourly basis to the Environmental Information Center, where they
are sent directly to a public display. Various studies, in particular
those conducted in Skopje and Veles, have shown that a large number
of children in cities are suffering from respiratory diseases associated
with air pollution. Reduction of emissions in Veles is one of the top
priorities in the NEAP.
The amount of wastewater receiving treatment in FYR of Macedonia is extremely low. There is only one official wastewater treatment plant in the whole country and it treats only a very small portion of the country's total discharges. Consequently, large parts of the country are affected by surface-water and groundwater pollution. The Vardar River, which supplies 75 % of the country's total water resources, is heavily polluted by untreated urban and industrial pollution. After passing through FYR of Macedonia, the river flows south into Greece, entering the Aegean Sea near Thessaloniki.
The principal sources of water pollution. are the major cities and more than 130 industrial facilities throughout the country. Only three municipalities, Ohrid, Prespa, and Dojran, have wastewater treatment plants. Ohrid's, however, is the only one functioning to capacity; the collector systems of the other two are not completed. The largest contributors of industrial pollution are the metallurgical, chemical and mining industries.
Surface water quality is monitored by the RHI, which maintains a network of approximately 60 measurement points throughout the country. An overview of river water quality, and the extent of pollution, is provided by Map 4. The surface-water monitoring network, for the Vardar and other rivers, is now being substantially modernized. Groundwater monitoring, however, was stopped in 1981 due to lack of financial resources.
The existing regulations controlling management of solid waste in FYR of Macedonia are inadequate. As a result, current practices are rudimentary and associated environmental problems clearly evident. There are approximately 25 known landfill sites around the country, almost all of which lack any environmental safety features. Many have been built in karst areas and pose significant risks to groundwater. The known landfills are, however, only the tip of a very large iceberg; the country is littered with casual waste disposal sites, particularly in rural areas. Solid waste is adversely affecting groundwater, surface water, soil and biodiversity throughout the country, including a number of protected areas, such as national parks.
In addition to household waste, quantities of which are growing steadily due to changing consumption patterns, serious and widespread problems are arising from industrial and hazardous wastes. There is no nationally organized system for the collection, storage, treatment or disposal of industrial waste, and there is no adequate legislation governing waste export to other countries. This is one of FYR of Macedonia's most serious environmental challenges. The current situation favors methods of waste disposal that are dangerous to the environment and human health. Furthermore, it is impossible to implement otherwise reasonable measures for reducing emissions to air, soil or water because the wastes that would be generated cannot be properly handled.
FYR of Macedonia has so far only introduced limited policy and legislative controls on the use, transport, storage and safe disposal of chemicals, including ozone-depleting substances, PCBs, pesticides and biocides. As a result of weak legislation, responsibility for this issue has not been allocated within the administration. The country is, however, a party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal (the Basel Convention).
In many countries, including parts of the former Yugoslavia, PCBs have been commonly used as insulating and cooling fluids in electrical equipment such as transformers and capacitors. At some of the industrial sites visited by UNEP, management was unaware of the potential risks associated with PCBs. While none of the limited number of fluid samples taken by UNEP revealed the presence of PCBs, the replacement and safe disposal of PCB-containing fluids may be an issue in some of FYR of Macedonia's industrial sites.
BIODIVERSITY AND LAND ISSUES
FYR of Macedonia has rich and varied flora and fauna and benefits from outstanding mountain and lake landscapes. There is high potential for the future development of environmentally sound tourism, and care will be needed in the development of other economic sectors, particularly agriculture and transport, to ensure that biodiversity and landscape values are not damaged.
Lakes Ohrid and Prespa have gained attention through
their designation as wetlands of international importance under the
'Ramsar' Convention on Wetlands.
Forest areas cover approximately one-third of FYR of
Macedonias area. Forest management is slowly shifting to sustainable
methods, but clear-cutting remains the dominant method of timber harvesting.
According to the NEAP, 38 % of FYR of Macedonia is classified as 'seriously
eroded'. This is due mainly to overgrazing, deforestation and poor arable
farming practices. The annual soil loss has been estimated at 17 million
m3. Rehabilitation of eroded areas is accorded high priority under the
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United Nations Environment Programme - UNEP
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28 March, 2001