Environmental Protection

Kosovo has inherited a big number of environmental problems accumulated over decades of uncontrolled use of natural and mineral resources, industrial production, energy production through coal alimented thermal power plants, all coupled with high level of pollution. The overall environmental situation in Kosovo has worsened over the past years, with increased constructions, traffic and industrial pollution. Serious environmental problems are also related to air, water and soil pollution, threatened biodiversity and deforestation. Despite substantial progress has been made during the last decade in developing institutions, policy, legislation and strategies for addressing these problems there is still a clearly visible degraded environment which can have a direct negative impact in the health of the population. According to World Bank “Kosovo Country Environmental Analyses 2013” the annual cost of the environmental degradation in Kosovo is estimated at up to EUR 327 million in 2010. This cost is equivalent to close to 7 % of GDP.

Despite its small territorial surface (10,908 km2), Kosovo is characterised by a rich biological diversity. The geographical position and favourable ecological factors make Kosovo one of the most biodiversity rich areas in the Balkan Peninsula. The flora of Kosovo consists of algae, lichens, mushrooms, ferns, gymnosperm and angiosperm that are the basis of life and crate the green layer of the earth that has direct impact in the life of human beings and animals. Based on researches made so far and on data included in the Red Book of Flora finalised for the first time in Kosovo on 2013, the exact number of vegetative taxa in Kosovo is still not known. According to data available by various authors, it is thought that in Kosovo there are approximately 2,800÷3,000 species of vascular flora. This floristic diversity comes as a result of geographical position of Kosovo in the Balkans, the historical background of flora and vegetation of Kosovo, diversified pedological and geological composition, climate factor, the position of mountains surrounding Kosovo and impacts of floristic elements from Mediterranean, Europe and Asia. Indiscriminate wood-cutting, degradation of habitats and global climate changes are factors that have direct impact in the extinction of various plant and animal species.

In accordance with the studies finalised during the last decades and with the data included in the Red Book of Animal Species finalised on 31 December 2018 with the support of this Kosovo Environmental Programme (KEP) there are an estimated 46 mammal species in Kosovo, many with regional or global conservation significance. In addition, more than 250 wild vertebrate species (225 bird species either resident or seasonal migrants, including several species of birds of prey) as well as a number of invertebrates (so far 200 butterfly species and over 500 macro-zoobentos species) have been identified. The mountainous borderlands provide habitats for a big number of mammalian species including brown bears, lynx, wild cats, wolves, foxes, wild goat, roebuck, and deer.

Most of the animal species in the country are threatened by destruction of forest habitats. Some species of water birds have already been lost in Kosovo, probably as a result of wetland destruction. Hunting was allegedly heavy during the 1990s but is currently banned and there is reportedly little illegal hunting. The current status of game populations is unknown. The populations of two species of turtles have been seriously depleted by collection for the pet trade. Aquatic ecosystems in rivers are highly threatened as a result of water pollution from domestic and industrial sources as well as uncontrolled sand and gravel mining in riverbeds.

Kosovo has 99 nature protected areas which cover 118.505,5 ha (11.4% of the territory of Kosovo). In the list of protected areas are included: 11 Nature Reserves, 2 National Parks, 84 Natural Monuments, 1 Regional Park of Nature and 1 Protected Landscape.  The largest surface of protected areas and most important biodiversity zones belongs to the National Parks “Bjeshket e Nemuna” (62.488 ha) and “Sharri” (53.469 ha), or 93.5% of total surface of protected areas.

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The majority of Kosovo’s water resources are internal, with the exception of the upper part of the Ibri River which is in Montenegro and flows into the Gazivoda Lake. Kosovo can be separated into 3 climatic areas: 1)  Rrafshi i Kosovës (600 mm/year precipitation); 2) Rrafshi i Dukagjinit (700 mm/year precipitation); and 3) Mountains and forest parts (900÷1,300 mm/year precipitation). On average Kosovo receives about 760 mm/year precipitation. This is equivalent to about 4,400 m3 per person per year. Of this about 40% is “available”. It is estimated that Kosovo has about 1,600 m3 total renewable water resources per person per year. Compared with other countries in the region the levels of rainfall and the renewable resources per person are much lower: a) Precipitation (m3 per person per year): 41% of regional average; b) Renewable resources (m3 per person per year): 16% of regional average. However, the patterns of rainfall and water use are markedly different within the territory of Kosovo and water shortages are far more likely to arise in the East of the country than in the West.

Drini River Basin is one of four river basins in Kosovo. It is situated in the Western Part of country, between Mokna Mountains in North and Sharr Mountains in the South. It is the largest river basin and covers an area of 4,660 km2 or around 42.8% of the territory of Kosovo, and it is the richest river basin in Kosovo in terms of surface and groundwater perennial availability. Peje, Gjakove and Prizren are the main municipalities in the basin, with 30% of the country’s total population. The water high demand puts pressure on the water sources. People in the rural areas rely on village water supply systems, their own wells or springs, and on surface water.  Surface water and groundwater quality is affected by pollution from untreated wastewater and waste disposal from municipalities and industries. Rural wells are in general in bad condition and water quality is poor.

Despite the institutions to implement policy and water quality standards are in place, their capacity to implement and enforce legislation at both central and local levels needs to be strengthened. The budget to the water sector is insufficient and environmental and climate concerns are not mainstreamed into other policies. Kosovo lacks sufficient human, administrative and capital capacities to implement EU water, environmental and climate standards. Except for river basin authorities, whose establishment is at the initial stage, key sector institutions are in place. The authority responsible for water, environment and climate policy is the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, including the Kosovo Environment Protection Agency (KEPA), which is responsible for monitoring the state of water resources. In addition, there is a new agency concerned with groundwater, namely the Geological Survey of Kosovo, and an Inter-Ministerial Water Council tasked with, i.a., inter-sectoral coordination.

Water and the environment in Kosovo face severe challenges: most pollution levels are significantly above EU levels. Kosovo has only one operational wastewater treatment plant and a large portion of the population is not connected to either drinking water supply networks or sewerage networks. Wastewaters of urban and industrial origin are discharged directly to the rivers without prior treatment. As such, water in most rivers in Kosovo exceeds significantly the EU water quality limits. Even if pollution of groundwater does exist in Kosovo today, it constitutes a safer source of water for domestic water supply than surface water. It is also a more stable resource from a quantitative point of view. Droughts in the last few years have pointed to the need to complement the surface reservoirs with groundwater development in order to bridge over dry periods. Although surface water will continue to be the main source of water in Kosovo, moving towards a higher percentage of water use supplied by groundwater will increase resilience to environmental and climate change.

Groundwater thus represents an important resource for domestic, industrial and agricultural use in Kosovo. Despite its importance, the groundwater resources have not yet been sufficiently investigated nor explored qualitatively and quantitatively, due partly to lack of functional groundwater monitoring network. The lack of a modern and efficient monitoring network has serious negative effects on short-, mid-, and long-term planning and development in the water sector.

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Climate Change

The poverty makes Kosovo especially vulnerable to any climatic changes. In Kosovo, framework laws in the area of Climate Change are either in place or in the process of adoption. The institutions needed to implement EU standards are in place but their capacity to implement and enforce legislation at central and local levels must be strengthened. These are ultimately related to the promotion of energy efficiency and increase in the utilization of Renewable Energy Sources (RES). These goals are also stated in the Kosovo Energy Strategy (2017-2026) approved by the GoK on January 2018.

The European Commission Report of 2016 for Kosovo, in the chapter concerning the Environment and Climate Change, noted the need to improve the quality of environment reporting and the system for monitoring of environment indicators as well as to implement the priority projects identified by the adopted environmental strategies. The Kosovo Environmental Protection Agency (KEPA) produced the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory. This identified the main contributing sectors for GHG emissions. Kosovo, although not Party to UNFCCC or to the Kyoto Protocol acknowledges the climate change as a priority area and is dedicated to make its contribution to this global challenge. KEPA is Kosovo’s focal point and cooperative partner with the European Environment Agency (EEA) and reports to the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET).

The Climate Change Strategy addresses two components: Low Emission Developments (GS Emission Reduction) and Adaption with Climate Change. This Strategy includes two components; Component on Low Emission Development and Adaption component, the abovementioned components are presented in two separate chapters. To cope with climate change, this 2019-2028 Strategy will help implement appropriate capacity building measures, institutional strengthening, promotion of clean development mechanisms, and preparation for natural disasters. The Strategy Kosovo envisages to effectively anticipate, and respond to, the impacts of climate change, taking into account internationally endorsed principles for sustainable development.

Adaptation to climate change is crucial for reducing the risk and damage from current and future impacts of climate change in a cost-effective manner and to exploit potential benefits stemming from climate change. The National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) will aim to introduce new and improve current mechanisms of disaster risk reduction, especially important for sectors of economic significance that are particularly vulnerable to climate change impacts, and to enhance adaptive capacity of natural systems, in particular vulnerable ecosystems, and society, in particular vulnerable communities, such as poor farmers, marginal groups and women, to address the climatic impacts and related risks on their lives and livelihoods. Hence, the Strategy intends to build the capacity of the local partners, actors and stakeholders to integrate climate change issues and adaptation into the local and regional development processes, and empower them for addressing climate change issues.

The main challenge for reducing GS emissions is the financial constraints of public and private companies to invest in their technologies to reduce these emissions. Since the main GHG contributors are the different sectors, which are monitored by Ministries and Municipalities, then this strategy addresses specifically the necessary measures that will be implemented by these authorities.

The Climate Change Strategy is the basic framework for the reduction of GHG and adaption with climate change, on the basis of which, following the approval of the Government, further steps will be taken in the harmonization of legislation with EU provisions, implementation of legislation, implementation of standards through defined policies, in coordination with other strategies and action plans.

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