III. Latvian Environmental Concerns
The environmental issues faced in Latvia are relatively mild compared to its neighbors to the north and south, for many reasons. Latvia was very industrialized during the Soviet period, yet it always imported energy from other regions due to its lack of natural resources. The Latvian economy also relied heavily on natural gas and renewables (4) during the Soviet reign, which helped avoid many of the issues beset by Estonia and Lithuania. Latvia is also traditionally very agrarian, which contributes to the lack of problems in this area, since cities tend to produce much more pollution than rural areas. Most of the energy produced within the borders of the country originates from hydroelectric power, which is indeed very sustainable as compared to coal burning or fossil fuels. It constitutes 70% of the energy produced in the country (8), which is a number many countries would strive for. Latvia’s relative success in the field of sustainable development is aided by the existing infrastructure which in this case is beneficial for the country, as compared to the other Baltic States where a vast majority of the time it causes complications. Whether or not its success is self-made or a product of tradition and low population is debatable, yet Latvia is nonetheless in a comparatively better position in this field than most countries.
This, however, does not mean Latvia is without problems whatsoever, but many of their issues stem from cross border sources. Latvia’s main river, the Daugava, originates in Russia, but runs through the notoriously industrial Belarus. The challenges faced by Latvia in the field of water purification are the most significant in the country regarding environmental degradation, owing to the cross border water pollution. Latvia is not without fault in this also; the capital of Riga contributes 2/3 of the pollution in the country (4) and it is directly placed on the shores of the Baltic Sea, which adds to the problems faced by the region as a whole of water eutrophication and environmentally destructive algal blooms. Eutrophication, abetted by the dumping of industrial wastewater in Riga and surrounding regions, may be directly responsible for the prevalence of algal blooms in the Gulf of Riga and the central Baltic. Algal blooms are environmentally destructive in many respects and can have negative effects on the fish population, which directly effects the economy of the region. For this reason, industrial wastewater treatment in Latvia remains one of the most pressing issues in the country regarding sustainable development.
IV. Lithuanian Environmental Concerns
Lithuania as a country faces many more complex problems regarding sustainable development and environmental degradation, considering heavy reliance on an oil refinery in the northeast region of Mažeikiai. This oil refinery is the sole refinery in the Baltic States, and much of Lithuania’s economic success is tied to it. Oil...