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16 EPA J. 50 (1990)
Eastern Europe: Restoring a Damaged Environment

handle is hein.journals/epajrnl16 and id is 228 raw text is: Eastern Europe:
Restoring a Damaged Environment
by Richard A. Liroff

Whole sectors of industry are producing
things in which no one is interested,
while things we need are in short
supply .... Our outdated economy is
squandering energy .... We have laid
waste to our soil and the rivers and the
forests our forefathers bequeathed us,
and we have the worst environment in
all of Europe today.
-Vaclev Havel, President of
Czechoslovakia
(Liroff directs the Eastern Europe
Environment Program at World Wildlife
Fund and The Conservation
Foundation. Previously affiliated, these
groups were formally merged in 1990 to
form a private, non-profit conservation
organization involved in research and
environmental protection.)

P resident Havel's assessment of his
nation's economic and
environmental ills applies broadly
across Eastern Europe. The Iron Curtain
has been lifted to reveal truly appalling
environmental conditions. Eastern
Europe has been savaged by
economic-development policies
indifferent to the carrying capacity of its
ecosystems and to the health and
well-being of its citizens. The East's
central planners have demonstrated they
can be as environmentally callous and
cavalier as the worst private-sector
managers in market-oriented economies.
The United States, together with
Western Europe, is supporting the
economic and political transition of
Eastern Europe. The United States
should offer a balanced, integrated
program of environmental and economic
assistance that fosters full restoration of
a healthy environment in Eastern
Europe. Such a program would help
reduce the region's contribution to
global warming and encourage use of
both American technologies and
innovative approaches to pollution
prevention.
The Enviromnental Challenge
The German Democratic Republic
(GDR), Czechoslovakia, and Poland are
among the world's largest emitters of
sulfur dioxide (S02). Moreover, in
Europe, as elsewhere in the world, air
pollution does not respect political
boundaries. The Eastern European states
export from 59 percent to 74 percent of
their SO2 emissions. According to
monitoring data, however, of the total
amount of SO2 deposited in these
nations, 36 to 59 percent originates
outside their borders.

The forests of western
Czechoslovakia, southwestern Poland,
and the southern GDR have been
devastated. Budapest, Prague, Krakow,
and other major cities routinely have
air-pollution readings well above
existing health standards.
Drinking-water supplies throughout
Eastern Europe are heavily
contaminated. Vast reaches of the
Vistula River in Poland, which drains
much of the country, are classified as
unfit for use even by industry. The
Baltic and Black Sea coasts are badly
degraded by domestic sewage,
agricultural run-off, and heavy metals
and organic pollutants from industry.
Water quality problems are both
domestic and transboundary; domestic
progress in combating pollution has
been slow, and multilateral cooperation
negligible.
The soil, too, is polluted. Industrial
discharges have contaminated soils and
domestic food supplies. In the Upper
Silesia region of Poland, for example,
lead, zinc, cadmium, and mercury levels
in samples of garden produce are 30 to
70 percent higher than World Health
Organization norms.
Eastern Europe's mines and industries
yield prodigious amounts of solid and
hazardous waste. Waste generators in
Hungary reportedly dispose of over
500,000 tons of hazardous waste
annually in illegal landfills. In addition,
substantial amounts of hazardous waste
have been shipped east from Western
nations. The GDR has reported
importing one million tons of waste
annually, but Greenpeace contends that
the amount of imports has been
disguised and is really five times
greater. Few safeguards have been
developed to assure appropriate
management of these wastes.
The devastation of the environment is
revealed through effects on human
health and welfare. In especially
contaminated areas, statistics and
anecdotal evidence show dramatically
elevated rates of respiratory disease,
EPA JOURNAL

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