Lithuania waste management sparks major concern

Hazardous waste increasing in volume with no effective control in Baltic state, says UNECE review

Waste management practices in Lithuania need urgent and substantial improvements in all sectors, according to a detailed report on the state of the country's environment. However, the Baltic country, which is pushing to join the EU in the early years of the next decade, has made "considerable progress" in developing a legal system for environmental protection.

The review, by the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), says it is now "essential" to approve and implement a comprehensive waste management strategy "without delay". Of particular concern are hazardous wastes, which are increasing in volume and for which there is currently "no efficient control."

The report's authors also express concern over radioactive waste from the Ignalina nuclear power plant, which supplies over 80% of Lithuania's electricity and has been declared incapable of meeting western safety standards by EU experts (ENDS Daily 12 April). The country lacks a "complete and coherent" nuclear legislation package and the absence of a decision on the future of the plant is a gap needing to be bridged urgently, they conclude.

On the positive side, the heavy reliance on nuclear power and economic recession since the disintegration of the Soviet Union mean that emissions of major air pollutants are well below levels in the EU. However, if the Ignalina plant were closed down in the near future and economic and transport growth were to continue, measures to mitigate the environmental effects of the country's coal and oil-fired power plants would become urgent, says the review.

Assessing the environmental situation in Lithuanian industry is also problematic. Data on releases reported by industry is not compiled or analysed by the environment ministry, which is unable to identify major polluting sites and sectors. As a result the agriculture and economy ministries are "neither aware of nor concerned about" pollution generated by the activities they oversee, concludes the report.

Follow Up:
UNECE, tel: +41 22 917 1234. References: "Environmental Performance Reviews: Latvia."

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