Country profile (Slovakia)
What distinguishes the country?
Figure 1 - Population in Slovakia
- Data source
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Slovakia is a highly diversified country with regard to its natural environment. It is largely located in the mountainous territory of the northwestern Carpathian arch. The central part is formed by the Tatry Mountains. The outer part is shaped by flysch mountains. Pannonian lowlands extend into the southwest of Slovakia. Limestone areas hold many caves. Due to the geological structure of the territory, there are many mineral springs and thermal waters in Slovakia. The climate is temperate. More than 95 % of the territory is drained by the Danube River to the Black Sea. Only a small part drains into the basin of the Baltic Sea. The geographic position of Slovakia in the centre of Europe allows for a rich diversity of flora and fauna.
In 2009, Slovakia had 5 424 925 inhabitants. (see Figure 1)
Most inhabitants are concentrated in the lowlands and valleys. Extensive land use and settlement has had a considerable impact on the original landscape structure and ecosystem composition. Rural settlements contain numerous elements of traditional architecture. Mountain depressions and valley corridors shelter medieval castles and ruins.
Central government consists of 14 departments. Many environmental policy functions are managed within the Department of Environment. Department of Economy, Department of Agriculture, Department of Health and Department of Transport, Post and Telecommunications partly participate in environmental legislation processes and enforcement. Regional Environmental Authorities, District Environmental Authorities and Municipalities have responsibility for regional, district and local development, as well as the enforcement of environmental regulations. The major executive body of environmental policy in the Slovak Republic is the Slovak Inspectorate of the Environment. The Slovak Environmental Agency, the State Nature Conservancy of the SR, research institutes and other organisations are statutory bodies responsible for protecting the environment.
What have been the major societal developments?
The Slovak Republic was a part of Czechoslovakia from 1918 and became an independent state on 1 January 1993 after the dissolution of its federation with the Czech Republic. Intensified agriculture and the heavy industry, especially the production of weapons and other military equipment, had been based largely in Slovakia. The Slovak economy had been transformed from a centrally planned economy to a market driven economy. In the last years the Slovak economy had been characterised by a sustained high economic growth. The global economic crisis and continued economic depression has stopped this economic growth. The government of the Slovak Republic has implemented EU legislation. The Slovak Republic became a member of OECD on 14 December 2000, a member of NATO on 29 March 2004 and a member of EU on 1 May 2004. On 1 January 2009, the Euro was adopted as the national currency.
What are the main drivers of environmental pressures?
The 1990s are characterised by transformational and restructuring processes in the Slovak economy which was connected with a reduction in economic activities, as well as restructuring of industry, causing a decrease in energy consumption, changes in agriculture, forestry and tourism. Such changes have had positive impacts on the environment in Slovakia. On the other hand, the changing consumption behaviour of inhabitants with regard to waste generation, increased motorisation, land use changes, and others has caused negative impacts on the environment in Slovakia.
Slovakia has experienced a relatively high rate of land use change since 1990 shown in land cover mapping. Since 1990, the main changes observed in Slovakia have been migration of the rural population to urban areas which determined land use changes, a significant increment of new forests and an increase in built-up areas. Urban sprawl took place in the surroundings of large cities, due to the development of new houses, commercial and industrial sites, and at the expense of arable land. Such changes cause losses of soil as a non renewable and food source, biodiversity decrease and decrease of carbon sinks.
Compared to 2003, the total volume of generated waste located on the market in 2009 showed a decreasing trend when the volume of generated waste decreased by 8 %. Most waste - about 36 % - was generated by industry. About 49 % of the total volume of waste located on the market was recovered in 2009. Municipal waste generation has shown an increasing trend. In the period 2003-2009 the generation of municipal waste increased by about 25 kg per capita. During this period, most municipal waste was disposed of through landfills (in 2009 82 %).
Since 1993, road transport has increased while rail transport, and road and city public transport have decreased. During the period 1993 2009, the total number of motor vehicles increased by 52 %. In terms of transport’s share of total emissions of the assessed pollutants for 2008, transport’s share of CO emissions is significant – 26 %, 51 % in the case of NOx and 14 % in the case of NM VOC. In 2007, transport‘s share of total greenhouse gas emissions was approximately 15 %. Increased motorisation inevitably leads to deterioration of air quality in cities, causes increased exposure of the public to noise from road traffic, threatens human health and life, and takes up space for building transport infrastructure.
Since 1990, structure of primary energy source consumption (PES) shifted toward non-fossil PES and natural gas. During the period of 1995 to 2008, final energy consumption showed reduction by app. 20% as a result of the drop in economic activities. More than a half of electricity production in the SR is provided by nuclear power plants, thermal power plants represent app. 30 %. In the period between 1993 and 2008, the use of energy from renewable energy sources in the SR increased by 50.0 %. During the period of 1990 to 2008, the energy sector showed an increased share on total GDP, meanwhile greenhouse gas emissions of energy sector were reduced by 41.01 %. In the years 1998 to 2008, the share of the energy sector on SO2 emissions decreased by 48 %.
The Slovak industry was characterised by a heavy industry and high energy and resource demands. Fundamental changes in the Slovak industry were applied in the 1990s. Due to foreign direct investment, modern technologies were introduced to the Slovak industry. In 2009, the greatest share of GDP generation at the level of 35.3 % comes from industry and Slovakia has become the leading car manufacturer (per capita) in Europe. Compared to other EU countries, the energy demand from industry is very high (traditionally a high proportion of the heavy industry). In 2008, industry’s share of total energy consumption in Slovakia reached 40.4 % (the EU27 average was 27.2 %). Emissions from industry have a negative impact on the environment. CO emissions from industry in 2008 made up as much as 98.8 % of medium and large stationary sources (SO2 emissions 99 %, NOX emissions 99.1 % and SPM emissions 93.5 %).
The last two decades have been characterised by a reduction in the application of agrochemicals in the production process which has had positive impacts on the environment. During the period 1990-2009, industrial fertilisers consumption decreased by 59 %, and pesticide consumption dropped by 27 %. Numbers of livestock also sharply dropped, in the case of cattle by 69 %, and pigs by 70 %. Compared to 1991, the share of the area of agricultural land by organic farming increased from 0.59 % to 7.6 %.
GDP share of forestry in the total GDP since 1990 continues to decrease, remaining below 1 %. Among the biggest changes since 1990 is the progressive transfer of state ownership of forests (almost 100 % in 1990) to individuals, cities, villages, churches, etc. (with 59.1 % in 2009). Since 1990, the continuous implementation of sustainable forest management and fulfilment of multiple functions of forest in a changing economic and social environment have been one of the main challenges to Slovak forestry.
Slovakia has a large natural potential for tourism. But performances of Slovak tourism lag behind other countries. The main reasons for international tourists to visit Slovakia include activities in accordance with the requirements of sustainable development (visiting family and friends, culture and knowing new places), on the other hand, tourism poses risks to the natural environment in mountainous and lake areas. Sites for mountain tourism activities, marked cycling trails and marked hiking trails and as a consequence, fragmentation of the land and highest degree of endangerment of small-size protected areas by tourist activities, are concentrated especially in national parks. An increase in the length of erosion-impacted tourist marked trails, as a significant environmental issue, is concentrated in the zone above the upper forest border.
What are the foreseen developments?
Slovakia has made progress in a number of important respects over the last two decades, most notably in connection with certain emissions to air, water, and waste. The main environmental challenges for Slovakia in the short term are:
Total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in the Slovak Republic in 2008 fell significantly compared to 1990 by about 25 Tg, which corresponds to a decrease of about 34 %. This means that the Kyoto targets for 2008 2012, a decrease of 8 % compared to 1990 levels, will be successfully met. Similarly, emissions of SO2, NOX, NH3 and NMVOC have decreased compared to 1990 and Slovakia will achieve the specific objectives.
By the year 2012, to ensure compliance with Directive 91/271/ECC for 97 % of total amount of biological removable pollution.
By the year 2015, to ensure wastewater discharge and biochemical sewage treatment in the agglomeration with more than 2 000 population-equivalent (p.e.).
By the year 2015, to optimise the use of fuel wood biomass from forestry with the aim to achieve energy and economic efficiency.
By the year 2020, to reach the 14 % share of gross consumption of renewable energy resources.
By the year 2015, to ensure the conditions for maintenance of native species diversity, achievement of favourable species status, as well as the implementation of the research and monitoring system for protected species of European and national importance and a non-native species.
By the year 2015, to complete the networking of the sites of Community importance proposed within the Natura 2000 network.