Newsletter and Technical Publications
<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>
7.8 Public education (Topic h)
Public awareness of
environmental issues is relatively high in all transition countries, but
reflects more the immediate surroundings than the whole country or region.
Public environmental education is still a process which has only started
recently and which needs a lot of attention from governments and other sites.
Hereby, environmental NGO’s play a prominent role.
The creation of environmental NGO's, composed of environmental professionals
and other interested people, especially young people, was an important starting
point for wider public awareness of the environment. According to the new environmental
laws, all people have the right to get access to environmental information.
Public participation in environmental decision-making is also part of the new
legislation. At present, most of the transition countries signed the UN/ECE
Convention on Access to Information and Public Participation in Decision-making
and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters.
Governments are obliged by
law to publish information about the state of the environment on a regular
basis. Beyond this, it is more or less up to the single ministry which other
kind of environmental information they release to the public, including to
NGO’s. Public access to environmental-relevant data from other departments and
ministries is in most cases very limited. In most transition countries,
information about planned projects and their local environmental effects as
well as participation in Environmental Impact Assessments is still not easy to
obtain for NGO’s and the interested public.
In most transition countries,
there is no co-ordination between the Ministries of Environment and the
Ministries of Education to guarantee a comprehensive and systematic school
toward professional environmental education. At the level of kindergartens and
schools, there are many different projects ongoing to involve the youth in
environmental actions and create awareness and sensitivity. But how much
environmental issues are regular part of school curriculum’s is difficult to
say and not often a reality. For adults, environmental education is often
provided by environmental NGO’s with workshops for professionals, or
project-related discussions or protests for the public. Furthermore, mass media
information about environmental issues and new development projects, but also
media campaigns, including TV-spots or documentary films, about accidents or
other special events inform and educate the population. Besides, companies with
environmental development projects (mostly financed from outside the
countries), are obliged to hold public workshops introducing the projects to
the local population and discuss them with the people.
In Ukraine, many environmental activities on local levels, in pre-schools and
in schools, are initiated or supported by NGO's. There are about 100 environmental
NGO's, the majority are acting locally. Due to the Chernobyl catastrophe, public
environmental awareness is still comparatively high in Ukraine, although public
interest in environmental protection issues is shrinking in view of the severe
economic situation. The press regularly covers environmental issues. The highest
priority of environmental issues has air and drinking water pollution, followed
by nuclear safety and waste. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nuclear
Safety is obliged to submit every year to the Parliament a "National Report
on the State of the Environment" and to provide ecological information
to the interested public and private institutions. This report and the monthly
bulletin "Living Ukraine" have summaries in English (EPR; 1999).
In Lithuania, environmental yearbooks, quarterly "State of the Environment
Reports" environmental monitoring and annual environmental media reports
were published by the Government. To a large extent this information is available
in English and provided on the Internet. Public participation is sufficiently
covered by the new environmental laws and regulations. However, access to information
appears to be a crucial requirement for NGO's. Active public participation in
environmental policies has to be encouraged, NGO's have to be supported and
the dissemination of environmental information via mass media has to be improved.
Environmental training should be extended to experts in all ministries concerned,
as well as in all regional and local administrations involved in environmental
management EPR, 1998).
In Estonia, public awareness and concern for the protection of the environment
plays a substantial role in the political process. Environmental issues have
been a contributory stimulus to arouse the national consciousness in the process
of restoring the countries independence. Several NGO's have been established
and public pressure has stopped i.e. the production of phosphorite. However,
the environmental movement has waned over the last years because public attention
is more directed to the severe economic situation in the country. New legislation
obliges the Government to provide environmental information to the public. However,
the procedures which information will be published and how to obtain relevant
information as well as how to participate in decision-making process are remaining
still unclear. Procedures for access to environmental information (from Government,
but also industry and agriculture) need to be clearly defined.
Latvia's recent history has demonstrated a strong connection between environmental
criticism and the fundamental political changes. Public awareness of environmental
issues in general is high. NGO's can not always be clearly distinguished from
government. Environmental education has no formal status, it is treated as a
cross-curricular theme. There is no formal recognition of the importance of
environmental education from the Government. Furthermore, there is a lack of
co-ordination between the ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry
of Environmental Protection and Regional Development. This results in overlapping
activities and parallel events. In school projects or special camps pupils became
familiar with environmental issues. National school programmes, often involving
10 - 30 schools across the country, are a great success. Examples are the National
Olympiad of Environmental Projects organised by the Curriculum Development and
Assessment Centre. "Environmental education in Latvia" is a three
year project of the Norwegian and Latvian Ministries of Education, involving
16 schools. Each school has chosen a different environmental topic which will
be published and later used by teachers as educational material. In co-operation
with the UK, the children environmental school of Latvia developed a project
on "Implementation of Environmental Education Strategy in Latvians Schools".
Other national projects (on energy, the Daugava river, etc.) were carried out
with the involvement of dozens of schools all over the country.
The main difficulties are
valid for most of the transition countries:
- The teachers are underpaid, often not well trained and there is a
lack of educational material.
- Schools don't have much experience with cross-curricular work and active
approaches to teaching.
In Slovenia the responsibility of environmental education is distributed
to different ministries and institutions. Education in kindergartens,
elementary and secondary schools are under the responsibility of the Ministry
of Education and Sport. Graduate and postgraduate education are in the hands of
the independent universities. After establishing a new law on Education in
1996, the National Curriculum Council and commissions were created including
the Cross-Curriculum Commission on Environmental education. Nevertheless, an
integrated environmental education does not yet exist.
The country has joined the European programme "Eco-Schools" which
aims to involve pupils in elementary schools, their teachers and parents in
predetermined environmental activities every year. Other initiatives like environmental
training courses for schoolteachers were initiated with the support of NGO’s
and the national Board of Education and with relevant PHARE programs.
In Croatia, again NGO's did the first step to foster national environmental
education. The NGO "Nature Friends Movement" has been conducting national
environmental education programmes for several years. It has been nominated
as national co-ordinator and operator for the European Blue Flag Campaign and
the Eco-Schools Project in Croatia, which started in 1997. The Croatian authorities
have joined this project in order to improve environmental education in schools
as part of the official school curricula. At present, both projects are jointly
carried out with the Ministry of Education and Sport and the Ministry of Tourism.
The Blue Flag project involves monitoring the water quality on beaches and marinas,
and the Eco-School project is targeting different environmental matters for
both the elementary and secondary school students throughout the country. The
Croatian State Directorate for the Protection of Nature and Environment (SDEP)
takes part in the implementation of the Eco-Quiz show "Our beautiful homeland"
and "Days of Bread-Days of Gratitude for the Fruit of the Earth" involving
again elementary and secondary schools in the whole country.
The general public interest
on environmental matters is mostly concentrated on the damages which happened
during the war and local projects influencing daily life. More information
about Environmental Impact Assessment procedures would enable NGO’s and the
public to be interested and included in decision-making. Information about
planned developments should be published at an early planning stage to
facilitate public participation and to improve public acceptance of individual
environmental protection projects.
In Romania, both the Government and NGO's are responsible for raising public
environmental awareness and education. The Government is carries out workshops,
conferences and is publishing brochures, photo exhibitions etc, to promote public
awareness and education. Several environmental NGO's, especially young people
(the Ecologist Youth of Romania, Terra Nostra etc.) organise periodically action
of waste collection from river beds, monitoring water courses in order to find
out illegal contamination sources etc. Another form of environmental education
is realised through Water Inspections or Environmental Inspections at local
levels, which apply fines for people washing cars in the vicinity of rivers
or lakes or throwing garbage into a water course.
A broader public
understanding of the benefits of an improved and technologically advanced
wastewater treatment for public health, and a healthy urban and rural
environment is recognised as a prerequisite for any development in this sector.
This is reflected in school education at all levels. Kindergartens as well as
elementary and secondary schools have introduced environmental
education, and they carry out excursions to drinking water and wastewater
Another form of
public education is given through water companies, involved in or financed by
international programs. Part of their work is to inform the local people and to
carry out public workshops to inform/educate about and discuss projects with the
local population. With the support of local mass media this form of education
activities reaches large sections of the population and helps to create
environmental awareness (Rojanschi, 1999).