Land use - Drivers and pressures (Slovenia)
The transformation of the physical environment to date has been largely haphazard, and can be seen in the tendency of diffuse construction outside dense settlements and the undermining of the cultural landscape and settlement heritage. Major changes have been observed on the margins of settlements as a result of the needs of industry and commerce and in motorway corridors. The overgrowing of arable land and the construction of transport and energy infrastructures are also contributing to the visible transformation of the physical environment.
Figure 7: Index of population, households and dwellings
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Figure 9: Scope of investment in transport infrastructure
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With a population of 2 million, 0.5 % of the EU population, and population density of 100 people per km2, Slovenia ranks as a quite sparsely populated European country. Owing to the hilly terrain, the population is unevenly distributed, and differences resulting from long-term thinning in remote, mainly mountainous and border areas or agglomeration in cities are increasing. There is typically dense settlement of valley and plain areas, and almost 60 % of the entire population lives in less than 20 % of the country’s territory. The population density is low in hilly sub-Alpine and Dinaric-Karst areas, where small diffuse settlements with a negative migration balance and ageing of the population predominate. Similar trends apply to the areas bordering neighbouring countries (ARSO, 2008, MKGP, 2009).
For decades the number of households has been increasing while the number of members in individual households has declined. The number of dwellings has also grown, by 72 % from 1971-2007. In the same period the number of households grew by 45 %, but the population grew by only 17 %. The average surface area of residential unit per person has also increased, possibly because more people are living singly and the rise in ownership of multiple residential units (PG02,PG03).
Slovenian urbanisation is characterised on the one hand by diffuse settlement with a large number of small settlements, overall a total of nearly 6 000 over 20 000 km2, and on the other hand urban concentrations in the valleys and plains. Over the last ten years the trend has been of increasing diffuse construction close to settlements and in the countryside. Major changes have also been observed on the margins of settlements as a result of the needs of industry and commerce and in motorway corridors. An important share is held by the small-scale but numerous and diffuse construction of individual residential buildings, the renovation, expansion and modernisation of residential structures and the construction of small-scale infrastructure (KM10). Growth is being seen primarily in small settlements close to the largest cities, where major investments are needed for the adequate provision of municipal services and infrastructure. Expanding settlement and the development of settlements in such areas often conflict with the preservation of high-quality land for farming, which is predominant in the lowland plains.
An increasing inflow of residents and construction trends are also being observed along Slovenia’s coastal short belt, where other activities, tourism, transport, etc., are being concentrated. Today the entire coastal belt is densely populated, and pressures to build holiday homes, tourist facilities and marinas, which impact the characteristics of the coastal landscape, are great. Increasing pressure on the coastal belt can also be seen in the transformation and consolidation of the shoreline. Only 25 % of the coast is still in its natural state. 38 % has been moderately altered, while the remaining 37 % has been markedly or radically changed. The last category includes ports, marinas and urban areas which encroach on the tidal zone and sea. Along 12 % of the coast, access to the sea is blocked by special protection regimes – customs piers, the port of Koper, etc. (ARSO, 2008).
Major changes to the Slovenian landscape over the past decade have also been spurred by the construction of transport infrastructure, especially motorways, into which Slovenia is still channelling the majority of its investment, 70 % in 2008. The railways have been neglected in investment terms, exacerbating their non-competitiveness relative to road transport (PR03).
The basic characteristic of Slovenia’s agriculture is that for a long time it developed in exactly the opposite direction than taken by agriculture in the majority of the European countries. This process is characterized by permanent decrease and fragmentation of the land property, by low working intensity of production and, in some areas, by gradual abandoning of production and the consequent overgrowing of farmland. Although Slovene agriculture is forced to manage in more difficult production circumstances due to the natural conditions, it is primarily socio-economic factors such as poor size and property structures of farms, the low level of professionalization, and the still relatively low work intensity, that decisively obstruct more rapid technological progress and modernization.
Agriculture and other activities – industry, mining, transport, tailings and waste dumps – have all impacted groundwater resources. The largest complete agricultural areas are situated in the lowland plains of northeast Slovenia, where the aquifers are alluvial. At many measuring points these are seriously affected by pesticides and nitrates (VD05,VD06,VD08).
An overview of the state of soil pollution in 1989-2007 has shown that, overall, soil is not heavily polluted. At individual locations, where there is or has been significant mining, smelting or metallurgical activity, exceedances of warning and also critical values for individual metals has been observed. The most problematic metals are cadmium and lead, but limit values for pollution by organic compounds have been exceeded at a smaller number of locations. The majority of cases involve intensive farming areas, where the residues of pesticides have been identified. The Mežica Valley, Celje Basin and around Jesenice are classed as having some the most heavily polluted soils (Zupan, Grčman, Lobnik, 2008).