Environmentalist says situation with water in Moldova is dire as world marks Water Day today

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06:20, 22 Mar 2019

Environmentalist says situation with water in Moldova is dire as world marks Water Day today

The situation with surface water in Moldova is dire, quantity- and quality-wise, and has remained unchanged for quite a few years now. The main pollution source is wastewater, in the acute absence of treatment facilities, and authorities do not rush to address this issue, IPN finds out in a discussion with Iuliana Cantaragiu, of the National Environment Center NGO.

“We build pipes to bring water to  people’s taps, but no solution is provided for wastewater. Wastewater should normally go into a sewer system and then undergo treatment. Very little is invested in Moldova in this field, however. The authorities should be very concerned about this and reserve money for such facilities”, says the environmentalist.

Of the about 350 wastewater treatment plants inherited form the Soviet era, only seven operate today in a manner that meets quality standards. Cantaragiu says the authorities should make this a priority in the future government program. “We wait for the Government to form and take on some responsibilities, and this issue should definitely be one of them”.

Other major issue include solid waste and drying ponds. These go dry because the owners or operators of fisheries or irrigation ponds do little to maintain them and they silt up. Farmers also couldn’t care less about water levels in the rivers they exploit for irrigation, and as a result once important rivers like the Bâc, the Răut or the Ichel have ended up being mere stream.

Administrative fines for environmental violations are low and not discouraging enough. “We think penalties should be increased considerably. They should also include damages done to the environment, something which inspectors currently don’t assess, leaving it at the court’s discretion. But judges often don’t pay enough attention to this matter. The system in its essence is not designed to protect the environment. With the amendment of the State Inspections Law, ecological violations have been equalized with, say, financial violations and follow the same procedures. This is wrong, because when an environmental offense occurs, it must be investigated right away; you don’t have time for all the bureaucracy, all the requests for permission to collect evidence, because soon enough the source of pollution is gone, rendering the investigation ineffective”.

Society, including at local level, is slow to address environmental problems in general and water-related ones in particular, the expert says, and environmental awareness is still in its infancy in our country. “People see only what their eyes can see. They seldom ask themselves what a chemical lab test might tell them about the sources of water around them. Few are concerned that wastewater is dumped into rivers. Local authorities could easily intervene when people complain, but they are are reluctant, with a few exceptions of course. We should learn how to address problems that we ourselves generate”.

Iuliana Cantaragiu says Moldova could borrow best practices from European countries like Finland, Austria or France. “The governments of those nations and their people are aware of the importance of water for good living standards. The most important thing is political will for such things to be implemented in Moldova”.

According to a 2017 survey, quality levels of drinking water in Moldova remain low overall, with rural areas worst affected, because of their heavy reliance on wells. The survey showed that water in 84% of wells and in 61% of aquifer sources is below chemical and biological standards. The leading pollution sources are livestock farms, garbage sites, fertilizer storages, and untreated wastewater. The districts of Fălești, Telenești, Criuleni and Ungheni are the worst affected.

March 22 has been designated by the United Nations as the World Water Day.

06:20, 22 Mar 2019

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