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Kosovo is facing very serious environmental issues in a broader sense, in particular concerning water, waste and land management. The situation is rather difficult in urban areas due to changed demographics and the pressure of migration from rural areas. This is reflected in unplanned construction, a poorly managed urban environment and inefficient public services such as waste collection and waste and wastewater treatment. Lack of funds and pollution from power plants and mines are challenges. In those areas where some approximation has been achieved, still attention needs to focus upon implementation and enforcement, and in particular through the adoption of the Kosovo Environmental Strategy (KES) and National Environmental Action Plan (NEAP) for 2011-2015 period, updated on May 2011 with the support of the Swedish cooperation, institutional capacity building and a substantial increase in funding for the sector.

Lack in secondary legislation and in implementation capacity

While Kosovo has made progress on adopting legislation and policies, more work is needed to create an administrative environment that will ensure further approximation to European standards.  Departments responsible for the environment continue to suffer from a lack of resources (human, material and financial) and from an organisation that it is not adequate to implement all the tasks and obligations assigned by law.  For example the Environmental Inspectors, who are employed at central and regional level within the Kosovo State Environmental Inspectorate (KSEI) in the MESP and at municipal level within the Directorates of Inspection or within the Directorates of Urban Planning, Cadastre and Environment (in few small municipalities) are extremely scarce and with insufficient financial resources and therefore they cannot implement the tasks assigned by law. 

Also the environmental secondary legislation in Kosovo is not complete and institutions dealing with the water sector, waste collection and processing and environmental improvement in urban areas need further capacity-building support to manage the growing problems. In those areas where legal approximation has been achieved still attention needs to focus upon implementation and enforcement, and in particular through the adoption of strategies and plans, institutional capacity building and a substantial increase in funding and improvement of the Environmental Impact Assessment, permitting and inspecting procedures. Also raising public awareness is another aspect that needs to be strengthened.

A. Water management

Kosovo is a region with limited water resources respectively 1,600 m3/water per capita. The underground water reserves are inadequate and located mostly in the western part of Kosovo. There, even the surface water reserves are more abundant in contrast with the situation of the eastern part of Kosovo, which can count with small availability, and the south-eastern part where demand for water is very high. Therefore, water resources protection and conservation use as well as the development of a sound water managing system are of a great importance and represent a major environmental and social challenge as the limited water reserves will be a limiting factor for the future economic and social development of Kosovo. In the recent years important efforts have been undertaken to implement River Basin Management Planning (RBMP) in close connection with the requirements of the Water Framework Directive (WFD) but many improvements are still required. Furthermore, the existing structures are subject to difficulties in terms of ownership and maintenance, as the ownership and management of water supply infrastructure including dams and other assets is not covered by the current legislation. This has a bearing on the safety of large infrastructures, such as dams, dykes and water intakes. Most of the urban population has access to the sewerage system but the lack of wastewater treatment facilities means that untreated sewage is discharged directly into rivers. There is no monitoring of the quantities or the quality of the discharged wastewater. In villages and other small settlements, wastewater is disposed of into open earth channels which contaminate surface and groundwater, resulting in poor-quality drinking water from wells. Neither is industrial wastewater treated; the effluent is discharged directly into rivers. The problem is graver in areas around mining-waste dump sites, where there are indications of pollution of ground and surface waters with heavy metals.

B. Waste management 

Waste management in Kosovo has been faced five majors challenges: (1) disregard of existing legislation; (2) lack and inadequate control of creation and transport of urban waste; (3) disinterest for reduction of the capacity of urban waste and reduction of its dangerousness; (4) inadequate and uncontrolled disposal of waste in the past and now; (5) lack of recycling or processing of waste. Most landfills were built before the 1999 conflict and managed below accepted standards. About, 35% of the population lives in urban areas and are serviced by municipal waste companies. Donors such as the European Agency for Reconstruction (EAR) and the European Commission Liaison Office (ECLO) have supported-financed and are supporting-financing programmes for the rehabilitation and closure of old municipal landfills (or dumpsites) and the reconstruction of new ones. The new landfills are constructed in accordance with European Union standards, (geological, hydrological, topographical studies were undertaken), and there still remain problems linked with as lack on their maintenance and especially on treating the leachate from the landfills. At the same time, the connection between the central government and municipalities for making better the waste management and control of services in urban and rural areas must be strengthened and the responsibility for the waste management planning and control at municipal level must be progressively transferred from the Regional/Municipal Public Utility Companies (PUCs) to the municipalities (Municipal Environmental and Inspection Departments). In Kosovo no appropriate waste classification, recycling or treatment is taking place, although some small projects for waste separation have been conducted in Pristina. MESP is continuously trying to establish and improve a system for classification of plastic and packaging of waste for recycling purposes. Major problems are not only related to household waste. There is no system for collection and disposal of used oils, batteries, accumulators, waste tyres, electrical equipment, vehicles, agricultural waste (animal and plants), medical waste, expired medicines, pesticides and similar end-of-life products.

C. Urban planning management

Currently, the spatial development trends in Kosovo are not favourable. They are characterized with great problems involving numerous cases of illegal construction, which cause problems in infrastructure and make services more expensive. Administrative barriers, sectoral compartmentalisation and territorial fragmentation hamper optimal territorial functionality, optimal allocation of resources and efficient public services. TheterritoryofKosovo, though varying greatly fromFranceandItalyterritories, plays the same roles as (1) the physical base for productive activities, (2) the life support system for people and natural resources, and (3) the place where the impacts of most policies can be seen or felt. The territory, therefore, provides a unique medium for developing a crosscutting, multi-sectoral perspective, for reconciling sometime conflicting objectives, setting mutually compatible targets and ensuring that interventions affecting its organisation, structure and use are coherent. Spatial Planning in Kosovo, although developed as an institutional activity since the post-war period after the Second World War, has produced no great or apparent results or traits in practice. Today, with the establishment of a Legal Framework, through the Law on Spatial Planning and related by-laws, a great step was undertaken towards the establishment of contemporary legislative trends in the field of planning inEurope.