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1 May 2008 Carpathians Environmental Outlook 2007
Martin F. Price
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Carpathians Environmental Outlook 2007 by the United Nations Environment Programme. Geneva, Switzerland: United Nations Environment Programme, 2007. 232 pp. Free download at; US$ 40. ISBN 978-92-807-2870-5.

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The Carpathians are Europe's longest mountain range, with a length of 1500 km. Definitions of their area vary, as discussed in a recent publication (Ruffini et al 2006). According to the present publication, the greatest proportion of their area is in Romania (43%), followed by Slovakia (22%), Ukraine (14%), Poland (11%), Hungary (6%), Czech Republic (4%), and Serbia (0.5%). All but two of these countries are now members of the European Union (EU). The Carpathians are a highly diverse region in many respects: environmental, economic, political, and historical. This report is the first to attempt to provide an overall synthesis of information and possible futures for this complex region. It derives from a 3-year process based on the integrated environmental assessment (IEA) approach and was coordinated by UNEP offices in Europe, including the Vienna Office, which is also the Interim Secretariat of the Carpathians Framework Convention (CFC), signed in 2003. This convention is identified as the raison d'être for this report, given that the implementation of such instruments and associated policies should be based on the best possible information.

The report is highly illustrated in color, with many maps, tables, both ground- and satellite-based images, and a number of “boxes” in addition to the general text. It was compiled by experts from the region and, following an explanation of its origins and an executive summary, comprises 5 chapters. The first provides a general background and introduction, with sections on main geographical features, human influences, and current environmental impacts and responses. Within the second and third of these sections, the long historical legacy—including that of the communist decades and more recent political changes—is evident.

Chapter 2 considers socioeconomic driving forces, beginning with a macroeconomic and structural policy overview and continuing with sections on both economic and societal driving forces and pressures. In this section it becomes evident that, while it is possible to evaluate trends for the Carpathian countries as a whole, there are relatively few data specifically for the mountain areas of these countries. Thus, almost all graphs and tables in both this and the following chapter portray the diversity of national situations, but not the diversity within the mountains, which is likely to be even greater than the former. Some maps give more detail for regional units within the Carpathian mountain area; but even these are at an inadequate level of disaggregation to provide a possibility to portray the situation on the ground. Thus, while general statements are made about the situation in the mountains, these cannot be substantiated. This problem is not unique to the Carpathians; for instance, similar problems were experienced when compiling data for a 2004 report for the European Commission (Nordregio 2004): only for few variables were data consistently available at the municipality level. These variables did, however, include demographic data—including for the Carpathian countries that are now EU members. However, these data are not included or analyzed in the present report: data on population trends are presented at the national level only.

Chapter 3, on “The state of the Carpathians environment and policy measures,” is the longest chapter of the book. It includes sections on species, habitat and landscape diversity; forest, land (mainly agricultural), mineral and water resources; atmospheric processes; waste and hazardous chemicals; environmental security (cf natural hazards); as well as urban development and cultural heritage. In line with the IEA approach, the sections generally address state and trends, threats and impacts, and policy measures and responses. As in the previous chapter, many of the presented data are at the national level. These are complemented by some statistics for specific mountain regions, and also by information derived from research activities at specific mountain sites, particularly in Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Thus, again, a general overview is provided, but the available information is not adequately focused on the mountainous parts of the Carpathian countries. The structure of these sections also results in a fair amount of repetition, as there are overlaps between topics, and many policies are relevant to multiple issues. An index would have been useful in identifying these overlaps.

Chapter 4 presents 3 scenarios for the future development of the Carpathians, with a target date of 2020. The stated aim is “to help policy-makers and other stakeholders identify the key environmental challenges faced by the Carpathian region, and to understand the economic and environmental impacts of the policies that could be used to address these challenges” (p 190). Given the general lack of quantitative data at a sufficient level of disaggregation, the scenarios are primarily based on qualitative analyses. They primarily derive from a regional stakeholders' consultation which involved “a broad range of regional participants from all seven countries, international organizations and NGOs” (p 7). Unfortunately, the participants are not listed, so it is not possible to judge how representative this meeting was. The 3 scenarios are: “Business as usual,” in which “globalization and liberalization forces are strong and propagate throughout the Carpathians”; “EU Policy First,” with “the successful implementation of EU environmental regulations in the entire Carpathians region”; and “Carpathian Dream,” which “assumes that pro-environment and anti-poverty policies are given highest priority at a nearly unlimited cost” (p 12). These divergent scenarios raise important issues and have considerable potential to stimulate debate. As noted, their further development would benefit from more quantitative data and analyses.

The concluding chapter restates many of the main conclusions from the previous chapters and then very briefly summarizes current policies as well as policy gaps and limitations. It concludes with a useful summary of major environmental issues and desirable initiatives to address them, particularly emphasizing the use of EU policies and the CFC. The report's concluding paragraph states that “Only through international cooperation and maintaining a holistic view of the Carpathian environment, and a common (or at least not contradictory or conflicting) path of development will the governments and peoples of the region succeed in building a viable future within the ‘Carpathian space.’” Such cooperation and holistic approaches are essential for this dynamic region. There is also a statement early in the report (p 7) that envisages a follow-up to the present report. It is to be hoped that, in the interim, the concerned governments will support the collection of quantitative data at a sufficient spatial resolution for the mountain areas of their countries. This would not only facilitate more informed decision-making at all spatial scales, but also permit the next report to be based on data that provides a sufficient foundation for a coherent and indepth analysis of the actual situation in the Carpathians, as has been possible, for example, in the Alps (eg Tappeiner et al 2003).



Nordregio 2004. Mountain Areas in Europe: Analysis of Mountain Areas in EU Member States, Acceding and Other European Countries. Stockholm, Sweden Nordregio. Google Scholar


F. V. Ruffini, T. Streifeneder, and B. Eiselt . 2006. Implementing an International Mountain Convention—An Approach for the Delimitation of the Carpathian Convention Area. Bolzano, Italy European Academy. Google Scholar


U. Tappeiner, G. Tappeiner, A. Hilbert, and E. Mattanovich . editors. 2003. The EU Agricultural Policy and the Environment. Berlin, Germany and Vienna, Austria Blackwell. Google Scholar
Martin F. Price "Carpathians Environmental Outlook 2007," Mountain Research and Development 28(2), 182-183, (1 May 2008).
Published: 1 May 2008
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