The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Belarus:
- Radiation pollution
The Chernobyl catastrophe imposed serious circumstances upon Belarus’s environment. Air quality is one example. 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits. Belarus still takes the third place in the air pollution death rate per 100,000 people. The total number of deaths caused by air pollution in Belarus is estimated at 9,450.
Brahin is the second most heavily radiation polluted city in Europe behind Chernobyl. Every eighth Belarusian lives in the territory polluted by radioactive caesium.
- Waste management
Annually, Belarus produces nearly 4 million tonnes of municipal solid waste alone. In 2016, 84 percent was buried in landfills and only about 16 percent of it was recycled. While this rate is moving closer to EU levels of recycling, the effective sorting of waste to separate additional recyclables lags behind.
- Habitat loss
Mires, bogs and fens are among the most threatened ecosystems in Europe. They are highly important for a variety of species and provide a range of benefits to people, water and help in carbon storage.
Olmany Mires Zakaznik is one of Europe’s largest natural complexes of bogs and transitional mires and is the largest natural swamp of its type in the Pripyat Polesie region. Belarus is one of the few countries where the globally Endangered Short-toed Eagle can still be found and Almany hosts the country’s biggest population of 18-20 pairs. The area is also home to other endangered (water)bird species like the Black Stork, Great Grey Owl and the Common Crane. The main threats to its ecological character relate to the burning of vegetation on mires, logging, the unlimited collection of cranberries and the unlimited hunting of wild animals. Road construction is also contributing to its destruction.
- Human trafficking
Belarus is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor. It is a 3rd tier country, meaning it requires severe interference in addressing human trafficking and exploitation of its citizens.
Human trafficking violations have dropped from 555 in 2004 to 184 in 2016. While crimes are declining, there is still a great need within the Government of Belarus to create legislation that will eliminate human trafficking. Support for victims is very limited and needs to be addressed.
- Suppression of free speech
Belarus continued to harass and pressure civil society activists and independent media. Authorities denied access to journalists at government events, arbitrarily prosecuted dozens of journalists, and arrested peaceful environmental protesters.
According to the Belarussian Association of Journalists, in the first nine months of 2019, authorities brought 39 cases against 18 journalists for “illegal production and distribution of mass media products.” They were fined a total of approximately US$36,600.
Laws and regulations governing public associations remain restrictive, preventing rights groups or political opposition movements from operating freely.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Belarus 155th out of 180 countries in its 2018 World Press Freedom Index.