Osnat Lubrani: Industrial Waste Management

Sep 19, 2011

Speech of the UN Development Coordinator/ UNDP Resident Representative Osnat Lubrani
at the Conference on Industrial Waste Management
19 September, Krapi Restaurant, Mitrovica

•    Your Excellency Prime Minister Thaci, members of the international community, distinguished guests,

•    It is an honor for me to speak at this conference on industrial waste management.

•    I would like to thank Minister Dardan Gashi and Trepca Complex Director their staff who worked hard at organizing this event.

•    I also would like to acknowledge the Mayor of Mitrovica Mr. Avni Kastrati for partnership under UNDP’s Hotspots project.

•    My greetings go to all civil society and media representatives with whom UNDP has worked closely in raising awareness for the problems that we have gathered to discuss at this conference.

•    Environmental issues have not been amongst the top national priorities in the Western Balkans including Kosovo. Priorities to date have focused on the reforms needed to strengthen security, to rebuild the economy and to improve general living conditions.

•    As a result, much-needed investment in environmental infrastructure such as wastewater treatment, air-pollution, abatement and monitoring, and industrial and communal waste management are still waiting their turn. An overfocus on macro-economic and trade issues, coupled with the incoherent international assistance, diverts Kosovo from tackling these problems as a priority.

•    Some of our latest data show that:

-    Municipal quality of life is uneven - one household in three is without one basic utility
-    Public services are failing the less fortunate (24% of disabled children attending school )
-    Pollution is the worst in Europe (air pollution levels 74 times higher than European standards )
-    Women’s potential is repressed (2/3rds of working age women have less than primary education )
-    Unfair business practices stifle growth (3% of bank loans and 2% of property goes to women

•    Mitrovica, is a town that also faces some of complex challenges of past industrial development and pollution legacy. While mining these metallurgical sites provided important economic opportunities, it has to be recognized that this has also caused severe environmental degradation and negative health impacts.

•    This situation raises humanitarian, social, economic and environmental concerns. The environmental situation in these hotspots is a direct cause of poor health and the related poverty presents a major barrier to future investments and economic opportunities for the local population.

•    In most cases the poorest happen to live in the areas worst affected by pollution and degradation. This is particularly true of conditions in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, home to the region’s worst lead contamination.

Recognizing these challenges, United Nations Kosovo Team, comprised of 21 UN development agencies, has commited to assist Kosovo institutions to overcome environmental challenges as one of the four main sectoral priorities for their Common Development Plan 2011 - 2015.

•    UNDP, through the funding of the Netherlands government, has already implemented two remediation projects of the tailing ponds in Artana/Novoberdo and Mitrovica. These quick measures to contain the pollution still require a long-term solution.

•    However, the environmental challenges facing Mitrovica are so broad-based that only a consolidated, Kosovo-wide action plan can make this as an issue of high priority.

•    At the local level, the success in cleaning up these locations and solving these environmental challenges is first and foremost a need to improve the lives of the people living in this area.

•    Secondly, swift action now has greater potential to translate mitigation costs today into greater economic and development capital in the future.

Finally, Kosovo must face with the requirements of modernity, most notably the European Union Environment Agenda and Rio Declaration. It has to adjust and integrate its efforts with those of the global community as it works to improve human development.

•    At the central level, the first task is to establish a unified development strategy for social investment and pro-poor economic growth, with the green economy components. Such a strategy would aim to:
o    equip a modern, healthy and educated society with a focus on youth potential;
o    relieve the worst manifestations of poverty and discrimination;
o    halt Kosovo’s embarrassing environmental damage;
o     root economies in the community; and
o    restore confidence and participation in the governance process
•    The second is to introduce real public accountability into policy and delivery systems, which experience in other nations proves is the foundation success.
•    The international, and especially EU, experience in revival of former industrial regions further shows that development breakthrough in pollution hot spots can only be achieved through integrated initiatives at the local level, addressing the local environmental, social and economic needs.

•    They require creative cross-sectoral solutions based on stakeholder dialogue and public participation and many times the most effective actions are not directly related to the sources of pollution but to future environment-oriented activities or infrastructure. Step by step clean up of polluted areas, investment in cleaner technologies to reduce waste water and air pollution must be combined with stronger integration of environmental concerns into sectoral policies and cross-border cooperation.

•    Sustainable development shall constitute an integral part of the future plans for the revival of these industries.  Natural resources are indeed a great economic opportunity, but future development should be equitable so as to meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.

•    Addressing these challenges and securing a policy framework that ensures sustainable development needs champions of change, broad participation and assistance from international community.

•    Change can come from within, even status resolution or trade barrier reduction. Kosovo has more GDP per capita than other countries in the developing world with better human development performance. The issue is not income first but vision and political leadership.
•    Challenging this status quo is not an act of charity. It is fundamental to Kosovo’s survival as a nation and to the aspirations of its first post-conflict generation.

•    I hope that discussions and deliberations at this event will generate support and momentum for articulating a clear strategy not only to treat the existing toxic materials but also to generate policy solutions that bring people closer to decision-making for the future development of the region.

•    UNKT role in Kosovo, presented also in the Common Development Plan 2011-2015 is designed to generate innovations and visible wins for Kosovo’s authorities – from modernizing the public sector to piloting innovations in key municipalities. Mitrovica is one of our selected municipalities.

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