The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Moldova:
1. Plastics and Waste
People are not informed enough about the ecological impact of plastic use and, consequently, don’t really take any measure to reduce their plastic products consumption. It was estimated that each Moldovan citizen uses, on average, 140 plastic bags annually, amounting 420 million plastic bags in total. Beside shopping bags, people of the Republic of Moldova use and then throw away a lot of other products made from plastic. Most of them are even not reused, whereas recycling remains just a dream for the Moldovan environmentalists.
According to a report issued by the Court of Accounts in 2017, about 1.1 thousand tons of waste oil, 2.4 thousand tons of waste batteries and accumulators, and 260 thousand tons of packaging waste are generated annually on the territory of the Republic of Moldova. The audit made by the Court of Accounts found that, in the Republic of Moldova, only 10% of the recyclable waste is recovered, the remaining 90% are transported to landfill sites, which generate major risks of damage to the environment and the health of the population.
2. Water resources
Access to safe water and sanitation is a precondition for people to lead a healthy life. It has been estimated that in the Republic of Moldova between 15 and 20 percent of the incidence of acute diarrhoea and of hepatitis A, 22 to 25 percent of that of gastrointestinal diseases and 100 percent of incidence of dental fluorosis is waterborne. Because of the lack of capital investment and continuous under-maintenance over the last 20 years, at least half of the existing infrastructure for water and sanitation services is in need of significant repair or rehabilitation. There are issues with both access to infrastructure and with the quality and safety of the provided services, especially in rural areas. In cities and towns, only 80 per cent of residents have access to a centralized water supply and 63 per cent to sewerage services. In villages, the access to services is much lower, at 50 and 40 per cent, respectively. Around 44 per cent of people in the country do not have access to safe potable water.
Sustainable development and economic growth rely on adequate human capital, which is ensured through education. While, during the transition period, relatively high public investment in education in Moldova (on average above 7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), which is higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) level) ensured high enrolment rates at different levels of education. Moldova still faces significant challenges as not every student is enrolled in mandatory education, especially those in vulnerable situations. Many teachers were trained in Soviet times, where human rights were not taught at all and teaching methodologies were rigid. The teaching profession in Moldova now faces high turnover due to historic under-investment, which means that teachers trained in the previous year may not be working in the next.
In 2018, Amnesty International Moldova has been focusing on embedding HRE in the formal education system. AI Moldova’s work over the last ten years has made a significant contribution to moving HRE from an extracurricular activity in a small number of schools to an elective subject widely offered across Moldovan gymnasium schools and demanded by students. In 2015, AI Moldova signed another agreement with the Ministry of Education to include collaboration on teacher training and Human Rights Friendly Schools. It has co-authored HRE curricula with the ministry – in practice leading the process.
Even though it is a lower middle-income country, Moldova still faces issues of malnutrition, low productivity in agriculture and problems with food security. These issues represent consequences of deficiencies in different fields. On one hand, low productivity in the agricultural sector and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events increase the risk of poverty for the part of the population engaged in subsistence agricultural activities (in particular the rural population and self-employed). On the other hand, the current healthcare system is concerned with stunted growth of children under five years old (a third of the population), anemia among children and women, including pregnant women (50%), and iodine deficiency.
The root cause for this issue started after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, when agricultural practices changed drastically, cutting the production in half. This was devastating for Moldova since agriculture is a huge part of the country’s economy, making up one-fifth of its GDP.
5. Sustainable Energy
As a country, the Republic of Moldova is a net energy importer, with gas having a share twice that of the typical share in European countries, which makes the reliability of supplies and efficiency of energy use, two important parts of its energy strategy. Households consume half of the available energy, compared to only one quarter in European countries, all of them being connected to the electricity grid and have physical access to energy. Also, a great majority of households are connected to the gas pipe network in the urban areas, but the connection index is much smaller in the rural areas. Despite physical accessibility of the infrastructure, there is an issue with the financial affordability of energy, especially in winter. Due to low incomes, in the cold period of the year many households resort to more traditional, but less efficient, sources of heating, such as wood-fired stoves. However, this opportunity is mostly available in villages and small towns, whereas in big towns households accumulate arrears on their energy bills. According to the energy strategy analysis, in Chisinau around 80 per cent of households encounter problems in paying their energy bills. Around 70–75 per cent of the productive capital in the energy sector is physically outdated, resulting in a high level of energy losses.