Country profile - Drivers and impacts (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)
Map 4: Land cover in Republic of Macedonia
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Since independence in 1991, the republic has made significant progress towards becoming a politically and economically stable sovereign state. Integration into NATO and the EU, full implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement accompanied by decentralisation, and coherent long-term development of the country that would include higher economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction are the overreaching goals which encompass all political elements and enjoy the support of the population.
Ambitious structural reforms are fully consistent with the country’s efforts towards EU accession, and more specifically towards meeting the Copenhagen economic criteria. In order to meet these – to establish itself as a functioning market economy able to withstand the competitive pressure of the EU’s common market – the country’s production and exports need to grow at high and sustainable levels. This, in turn, will require strengthened efforts to speed up transition, improve the functioning of economic institutions, and increase public investments in development-oriented activities. In this respect, the impacts of economic development are still the main reason for potential negative effects on the environment in the country.
Being a landlocked country with no access to major inland waterways, the transport sector by road and rail transport. Increased transport volumes lead to increased pressure on the environment, closely related to climate change and biodiversity loss. The present efforts to control these for the purpose of environmental improvement will certainly have effect on economic and social aspects of development. On the positive side, technological improvements have the potential of delivering reductions in vehicular air pollution despite the growth in traffic volumes. Nevertheless, a further focus and effort is necessary to continuously control and challenge the steady increase in transport activities that cause environmental problems.
The country’s transition to a market economy has resulted in a gradual shift in transport demand from low-value bulk commodities, generally transported by rail, to higher value-added light industrial and agro-industrial products. The latter requires more specialised, flexible and timely delivery which can more appropriately be provided by road transport.
The transport infrastructure lags substantially behind that of EU countries in terms of quality and density. Much needs to be done in terms of the state of the transport infrastructure and its connection to the European transport routes.
Air pollution from the transport sector is increasing due to the increased use of road transport, the low share of public transport, the low quality of the fuel, the old vehicle fleet, and imperfections of existing road networks in urban areas and elsewhere.
GHG emissions from transport have shown no significant changes since 1990.
Agriculture, an important part of the economy, is causing pressures on the environment. Targeted efforts to introduce more sustainable agricultural practices, reducing environmentally harmful ones and enhancing the beneficial environmental impacts of agriculture should have significant economic and social impacts in the longer term.
In 2003, approximately 14 % of employees earned their livings from agriculture, hunting and fishing. Primary agricultural production accounted for 10-12 % of national GDP for 1991-2002, and with the agro-food industry added, the GDP contributions were 15-20 %. There are about 180 000 individual agricultural holdings with a relatively small average size of 2.6 ha and with substantial fragmentation.
Environmental pressures from agriculture relate mainly to biodiversity, soil erosion, agricultural waste, pollution of the aquatic environment, and GHG emissions. Agriculture is the second largest source of GHG emissions among the sectors considered, the main sources being agricultural soils and enteric fermentation, both with about 40-50 % of the total CO2-eq. emissions; manure management and flooded rice fields contribute a smaller share.
Erosion and torrents cause the destruction and degradation of large areas of productive soil, irrigation schemes and industrial facilities. About 96.5 % of the total area of the country is under some erosive processes and 8 500 ha of land –0.33 % of the total area of the country – on average is lost to erosion each year.
The energy sector faces a particular challenge of balancing environmental improvements, economic progress and the need for social protection. The situation is particularly difficult because 60 % of national energy consumption derives from domestic sources based mainly on coal. The problem is further exacerbated by the relatively outdated equipment that is in critical need of modernisation. The main contributor to CO2-eq. emissions within the energy sector is the energy industries sub-sector, accounting for 70-75 % of total emissions.
Typically, urban areas are the most economically developed parts of society and tend to be considered as the most attractive to live in and for economic activities. Along with this, the resulting relative economic decline of rural areas puts increased pressure on urban areas, not least in terms of the environment.
Urbanisation has proceeded faster than planned, and today most cities are faced by poor urban infrastructures in particular with regard to water supply and solid waste management as well as the degradation of natural and cultural heritage.
More than 750 000 people live in 1 742 rural settlements. Villages are compact and more than 70 % of them have good conditions for development. Thirty-eight per cent of them are located in plains, 40 % on hills and 22 % in mountain areas. Almost one third of the villages are very small, with up to 100 inhabitants. Population loss is most often be seen in the mountain areas. Villages of between 2 000 and 5 000 inhabitants distributed in the catchment area of cities are economically sustainable.
Land is a finite resource of fundamental importance to the economy and the environment. Various and potentially competing uses of land exist such as agriculture, forestry, housing, industrial development, and infrastructure. There is increasing pressure for development that inevitably leads to changes in land-use patterns, as well as land degradation.
The process of urbanisation involves many pressures on land and landscapes relating to loss of arable land, biodiversity, landscape diversity and habitats.
Agricultural land covers 48.4 % of the total area, and 25.86 % of the agriculture land is arable. Today, only a small fraction of arable land is under intensive production, between 140 000 ha and 190 000 ha of arable land has been abandoned as a result of the migration. Forests cover about one third of the total area with the area increasing due to afforestation.
 Second National Environmental Action Plan of the Republic of Macedonia, 2006, page 81