Reducing pollution in the southern Mediterranean
Photo © Mhobl
The “Horizon 2020 Mediterranean report – Toward shared environmental information systems” has been coordinated by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the United Nations Environment Programme/Mediterranean Action Plan with financial support from the European Commission under the ENPI-SEIS project. It is part of the mid-term review of the Horizon 2020 Initiative, which aims to reduce pollution in the Mediterranean between 2006 and 2020. It focuses on three main environmental topics: waste water and sanitation, solid municipal waste and industrial emissions.
The report covers Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia, which work with the European Union within the European Neighbourhood Policy.
- Sanitation has improved steadily in the region over the last decade. Between 2003 and 2011 the proportion of the population with access to sanitation increased from 87.5 to 92 %. There are still 17.6 million people in the region without sanitation, a third of them living in urban areas.
- There is great potential to reuse wastewater in the region, the report says. Currently only around 1 % of wastewater is reused, so it is possible to make better use of this resource instead of discharging it into the sea.
- Progress in urban wastewater management is difficult to assess as the data available do not provide sound evidence on trends at the regional level, the report notes.
- While solid waste generated in the region is still approximately half the per capita level in the EU, waste generation in the southern Mediterranean region has grown approximately 15 % over the last decade, mostly due to a growing population and increased consumption.
- Waste management needs significant improvement, the report finds. Around three quarters of waste is collected, but most of this is still disposed of in open dumps, which can have health impacts and find its way into the sea leading to environmental problems. Less than 10 % of the waste collected in the region is recycled, the report says.
- Industrial emissions have a heavy impact on the Mediterranean. While pollution from heavy metals in seawater has decreased in recent years, local marine pollution from cities, industry and tourist resorts is still leading to widespread pollution of seas and beaches.
Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director, said: “Countries have put tremendous efforts into submitting data and seeking a better understanding of the pressures on the Mediterranean, an important step in cutting the pollution of the sea. However, the region needs to work even harder together if it is to meet its target to depollute the sea by 2020.”
There are still many data gaps for the topics covered by the report, in particular for wastewater management. Countries should also invest in creating an emissions inventory to show annual emissions of pollutants from different industrial facilities, the report says. Despite the multiplicity of activities already being carried out by civil society and governments in the region to tackle the pollution problem, there is still scope for intensifying cooperation and information sharing. This is a necessary step towards regular progress in assessing the status of the Mediterranean. Applying all these measures could make policy more effective in reducing pollution in coming years.
The report will be presented today at the Union for the Mediterranean meeting of environment ministers in Athens.
Press Release: European Environment Agency (EEA), May 2014