Select Committee on European Communities Minutes of Evidence



Climate change

  Energy use, dominated by fossil fuels, is the key influence on emissions of carbon dioxide. Between 1990-95, energy use for transport in the NIS fell by 48 per cent and industrial energy use by 38 per cent. Energy initiatives in the NIS are probably five times higher than in Western Europe so there is considerable scope for energy savings. On a "business as usual" scenario, energy use in 2010 is expected to be 11 per cent lower than 1990 in the NIS.


  Deteriorating water distribution systems and the high level of surface and ground water pollution have contributed to the poor quality of water across the NIS. Poor water quality impacts on health, productivity and biodiversity. Problems with the drinking water system include disruptions to the service, lack of water pressure and the infiltration of sewage water. There is also widespread contamination of surface and ground water. A large amount of untreated industrial wastewater is discharged directly into water bodies or into municipal wastewater treatment plants which do not have the capacity to treat it.

  The water utility sector needs considerable investment if the availability and quality of drinking water is to be improved. Finance is also required for adequate maintenance, pipe replacement and water purification. Reform of the water companies is also needed to produce well managed and financially viable service providers; this process will also need to consider tariff reform and the use of economic instruments.


  Air pollution represents a serious short-term environmental problem for human health. Industry and energy are the principle sources although vehicle emissions are becoming increasingly important. It is necessary to find cost effective methods of pollution control and to strengthen the enforcement mechanisms in order to create incentives for industry to invest in less polluting technologies.

Solid and Hazardous Water

  Although poor information prevents a complete analysis of the problem, there are serious cases of hazardous waste contamination resulting from poor management practices which allow waste to infiltrate ground or surface water. Most hazardous waste problems arise as a result of mining, metal processing, and chemical and petrochemical production. Problems tend to be highly localised but where such "hot spots" exist they pose a severe threat to health and the environment.

  Across the NIS there is little communal disposal capacity dedicated to hazardous waste. Waste tends to be stored at on-site facilities and disposed of at on-site or municipal landfills along with less toxic industrial waste. There is a need to strengthen regulations, provide incentives for reducing waste and complying with disposal regulations, and to develop communal disposal facilities.

  Most major municipalities in the NIS have good solid waste collection systems, though these have deteriorated because of lack of investment in recent years. Resource recovery and waste recycling is rare, partly because of limited markets for recovered materials. Waste disposal facilities are generally poor, particularly the design and management of landfills.


  The geographic and climatic range of the NIS means that the area has a rich biodiversity and is home to many endangered and threatened species. lack of finance and weal enforcement of environment protection measures have lead to the increasing exploitation of natural resources in protected areas. Another significant threat to biodiversity is the contamination of the natural ecosystems.

  Large scale deforestation is raising serious concerns about the sustainability of existing forests which are of national and global significance. Agricultural policies have resulted in widespread soil erosion and over-fishing, pollution, salinisation and irrigation schemes have diminished fish stocks. It is necessary to develop policies which allow for the sustainable use of natural resources and to integrate biodiversity concerns into policy development in other sectors.

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