Like other countries in East Central Europe Romania began the transition with some major environmental problems because legislation failed to deliver effective pollution controls. Although scarcely apparent during the last years of communism, an ecological movement achieved early political success and some of the worst affected areas have now seen substantial improvements. In addition, the slow-down in the economy helped to reduce the scale of environmental damage, although rising unemployment induced a survival mentality which has made the public wary of supporting radical environmental programmes. However, with the help of foreign capital and technology, progress continues to be made on a broad front and the legislative programme of 1995 to 1996 should go a long way towards bringing Romania into line with EU practices. In addition to the key problems of air and water pollution, much is now being done to rationalise the woodlands and other rural land uses; also to develop a sound conservation policy with particular attention to protected areas and to enhance the cultural landscape for the benefit of rural tourism. In these respects this chapter differs substantially from the coverage in the first edition (Turnock 1993) and it also expands a more recent paper on environmental action since 1989 (Dragomirescu et al. 1998).
Although rich in natural resources, Romania is prone to a number of major environmental hazards including avalanches in the mountains, gully erosion, landslides and mudflows in the hills and plateau country, combined with floods and seismic risks in the lowlands (Balteanu 1992). Some changes in the physical environment are inevitable. In recent years the Prut River, which forms the frontier between Romania and Moldova, has eroded the bank on the Romanian side by 2-3m each year in the Stânca-Coste şti area and the island near Horodistea has been reduced from 500 to 200ha (a total loss of 300ha of territory) because the soil is very light and there are no trees to consolidate the bank. No remedial action has been taken since 1989 because of lack of funds: recovery of 1ha costs 350mln.lei. However, the extent of the damage from routine environmental hazards is often increased by excessive human interference (Mac and Ripeanu