Environmental Problems of East Central Europe

By F. W. Carter; David Turnock | Go to book overview
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Introduction

David Turnock and F. W. Carter

The region of East Central Europe (ECE) - like all others - is prone to natural hazards including droughts, floods and landslides. There were devastating floods in the Oder valley in 1998, while the severe drought during 2000 caused heavy agricultural losses in the southern countries as well as forest fires that were particularly severe in Croatia. However, East Central Europe has also experienced major environmental dislocations through the process of economic development, and during the 1980s these amounted to a crisis which had a significant bearing on the chain of revolutions paving the way for the current transition. Although the literature gave considerable coverage to these matters at the time (especially the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union), no volume dealt systematically with environmental issues in each of the countries subject to a central planning system in the hands of totalitarian government.

With the encouragement of Routledge, we set about finding authors to write on the eight countries lying to the west of the USSR in order to highlight the pollution problems and consider the actions being taken to improve the situation. In the meantime the communist world broke up, and when the first edition of the book appeared in 1993 the original terms of reference had been modified to cover the prospects for the transition period - and with the unification of Germany invoked to justify the omission of the former GDR for which we had been unable to secure coverage. However, the first edition was heavily preoccupied with communist pollution blackspots arising from emissions (particularly sulphur dioxide), and discharges of raw sewage and untreated process water which were injurious to public health and biodiversity and also counter-productive through damage to the stock of physical resources (e.g. agricultural production and forest growth) and the health of the workforce.

These lessons have been slowly learned and the democratic political process, driven by civil society situated on a high learning curve, has combined effective action in reducing emissions and discharges while seeking to limit damage to employment beyond the inevitable consequences of restructuring. Meanwhile, the agenda has moved on to consider the impact of pollution on human health and biodiversity loss. We now acknowledge the need to situate the search for solutions to environmental problems more centrally in the political life of each state where policies are prioritised and resourced alongside the competing

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