UN Enviroment Programme

Chapter 7. Status of soil pollution in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia


The main sources of soil pollution in the Eurasian region are industrial activities including mining and petroleum production, military activities (past and current) and agriculture (obsolete pesticides, current improper use of pesticides and fertilisers in conventional agriculture), with clear differences among countries. In the western countries of the Eurasian region, a serious source is still the legacy pollution by radionuclides caused by the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Recently, new sources have been recognised in urban areas, such as soil pollution from transport and municipal waste. Too very little attention has been given to soils polluted by military activities in the region, although several contaminants are attributable to this source, such as trace elements, petroleum products, radionuclides, POPs, TNT, etc. There is a lack of information exchange and productive cooperation, sharing of good practice between countries. When such cooperation exists, it is mainly initiated by international organizations and it is not sustained at the end of the projects. Previously, during the Soviet era, there was coordination and management carried out by the central government in Moscow, but currently there is no organization or similar body in the region that coordinates actions in this area.

There are very significant experiences in some countries of the region that could be replicated in the rest under the leadership of the dominant country, for example, the Republic of Moldova could carry out knowledge transfer on POPs inventory and use, Ukraine can be a regional leader in circular economy in waste management, and Georgia can lead public participation programs in decision-making.

In general, throughout the region, data on soil pollution is very limited and often include monitoring of agrochemical parameters only, sometimes data on radioactive elements and heavy metals are presented. The systems for mapping and monitoring soil pollution in the countries of the region are very diverse in terms of the state of development and the organizations responsible. Access to monitoring data is also very variable in the region; while in Ukraine, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova data is available to the public, in Kazakhstan, data is only available on request, and in Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan data is not available to the public on the websites of the responsible institutions. Finally, the approaches to measure the level of contaminants in soil are different and it is complicated to compare data between countries, in their transboundary territories and sometimes even within the same country.

Overall, the strengthening the harmonization of soil contaminants measures, monitoring and reporting structures, and legal frameworks to control existing pollution and prevent new polluting events are fundamental aspects for the region to move towards a future with zero soil pollution.