People become nowadays more and more aware of the environmental pollution and waste management problems, feeling the need to implement urgent solutions. In the European Union, the Single Use Plastics Directive was already approved. It aims restriction in consumption and production of certain plastic products, as well as their replacement with more sustainable ones. The directive also bans certain single-use plastic products (cotton buds, cutlery, plates, straws, drink stirrers and balloon sticks) starting from 2021.
According to European Commission, more than 80% of marine litter is plastics. Because of the slow decomposition speed, plastic accumulates in seas, oceans and beaches around the world. As a consequence, plastic traces are found in marine organisms such as turtles, seals, whales and birds, but also in fish and seafood, and are therefore present in the human food chain as well, a statement of European Commission reported.
The plastic pollution problem in Moldova
The Republic of Moldova has recently approved new regulations regarding the use of plastic bags in retail trade. Therefore, starting from January 2019, the use of shopping bags with or without a handle, with a thickness equal to or greater than 50 microns, is forbidden. Plastic bags with a thickness of less than 15 microns will be banned from January 2021, except for those used as packaging. Additionally, the use and sale of plastic plates, glasses, other disposable tableware, as well as cotton buds made of plastic, shall be prohibited from 1 January 2021.
Moldova seems to keep up with the European Union, at first sight. But just as any other problem in Moldova, this one has multiple facets. The new law provisions were already criticized, as they entered into force, but a control mechanism wasn’t implemented yet. According to the declarations of the director of the National Agency for Food Safety (NAFS), Ion Sula, the law doesn’t expressly stipulate who will assume the responsibility of controlling the retail agents. That basically means that the law exists only formally, without an implementation. There are still a lot of retail shops that didn’t remove the plastic bags, which represent the object of the current restrictions, from their activity. And they won’t do it, as long as personal interests and corruption represent a priority.
What is even worse, is that people are not informed enough about the ecological impact of plastic use and, consequently, don’t really take any measure to reduce their plastic products consumption. It was estimated that each Moldovan citizen uses, in average, 140 plastic bags annually, that amounting 420 million plastic bags in total. Beside shopping bags, people of the Republic of Moldova use and then throw away a lot of other products made from plastic. Most of them are even not reused, whereas recycling remains just a dream for the Moldovan environmentalists.
According to a report issued by the Court of Accounts in 2017, about 1.1 thousand tons of waste oil, 2.4 thousand tons of waste batteries and accumulators, and 260 thousand tons of packaging waste are generated annually on the territory of the Republic of Moldova. The audit made by the Court of Accounts found that, in the Republic of Moldova, only 10% of the recyclable waste is recovered, the remaining 90% are transported to landfill sites, which generate major risks of damage to the environment and the health of the population.
Moreover, the same report stated that 99.7% or 1147 landfill sites located in urban and rural areas did not meet the requirements of environmental legislation. Experts have found that no project on the collection and sorting of packaging waste has been funded over the past three years from the National Ecological Fund, although importers of plastic, polyethylene and cardboard packaging pay a green fee for this purpose.
Alternatives and solutions
Certainly, just like in the countries of the European Union, there are a lot of alternatives for plastic in Moldova as well. The authors of the law initiative regarding the ban of plastic bags in Moldova proposed such alternatives as disposable paper, corn flour, organic hemp, sugar, cane, starch or wheat. Some retail agents have already begun to promote such alternatives. It’s just that they are usually more expensive and not so popular as the plastic products.
Andrei Isac, an environment expert from Moldova, declared for a publication that the population of Moldova is not ready and merely indifferent to the plastic problem, having a limited possibility and wish to use alternatives or to sort the waste. Here is where the government must promote economic incentives to promote existing alternatives, establish bans on production and import of plastics, and raise penalties for violating environmental legislation.
Environmental changes are not easy to be implemented in Moldova, a country where the level of corruption is high and where population has a merely conservative attitude towards any of them. Still, some initiatives were already put into action, proving that being eco-friendly is possible in Moldova as well.
Lately, more and more producers of cloth shopping bags are ready to offer their products to the public. ITorba, Iuvas, Pangea Art. Eco. Love, Torbesc, Kasandruta, Mesto, Ponti and so many more options are already available.
The industry of producing biodegradable bags from the corn starch is only at the beginning in Moldova, but it can be evaluated as having a great potential, as the raw material can be obtained at a low cost in the country and, therefore, the products have a reasonable price as well. In this case, the pioneer on the Moldovan market seems to be the company Mac Del Prim, which is an official representative of a bigger international producer of biodegradable bags, plates, bowls, trays and containers.
More and more cafes from the Moldovan capital offer biodegradable paper or even metal straws to their drinks. There are already companies and organisations in Moldova that are involved in sorting waste disposal, as well as plastic and metal recycling (ABS Recycling Moldova, Sanin) or companies that produce wood industrial packaging (Rikipal). The Environment Agency of Moldova displays more than 100 non-governmental organisations that are in charge with raising awareness about the environmental issues in Moldova.
These are by far not the only initiatives. More is yet to come when both the government, businesses and individuals will cooperate.
Photo: Getty images
Women from the left bank of the Dniester
The village of Doroțcaia is located on the eastern side of the Dniester River, near a border crossing point installed by Transnistrian separatists back in 1992. The village, that was a battlefield during the Transnistrian war and went through gunfire and dropped bombs, is the home for 3038 inhabitants nowadays, according to the 2014 census.
“It used to be quiet in the morning. We worked until noon, after which we ran home when bombs and gunshots began to sound throughout the village. We were sleeping in cellars and were afraid that we might not wake up the next day,” revealed Nina Diordiev, a resident of the village that is now under the control of Chisinau authorities.
Most of the local agricultural lands are on the side controlled by Transnistrian authorities. That means people can’t get to their lands without presenting their identity card. Many times the separatists did not allow the locals to reach their lands, which caused them great losses. However, people said that the situation has improved since August 2018 and now they can reach their lands safely.
Doroțcaia is a sun-kissed place, cooled by the wind coming from the Dniester and inundated in flowers’ fragrance. The village has well-kept streets, a museum with centuries-old objects, a beautifully renovated cultural centre and many smiling people.
In Doroțcaia, there are 1560 women (51.3% of the total population). This article paints some of their portraits:
Eugenia Berzan has been the artistic coordinator of the cultural centre since 2011. Back then, she returned from France with her whole family. She managed to organise many concerts, while introducing modern concepts. Eugenia is the screenwriter, organiser of events and the one who stays behind the curtain and makes sure that everything works perfectly. Although she likes her job, Eugenia still thinks about moving to another country after her daughters graduate from high school. “To have a better future,” as she says.
Mădălina Nicolaev is 8 years old and she really likes football. In time, boys had to accept her in their team. She likes to play so much that often she loses the track of time.
“My father told me that if I played so much, I would faint and fall. So I stay home until 4 p.m., after which I run to the stadium,” she said. Mădălina remembers that her mother wanted her to go to dance lessons, but she chose football.
“Don’t ask me how many times I’ve already changed soccer balls. You don’t want to know…”
Galina Leașco is a former agronomist. She spends the whole day in the greenhouse where big and flavourful tomatoes grow. Galina also has rabbits, chickens and takes care of her large garden with flowers, trees and vegetables. She is a member of the Nistrenii Folk Ensemble and a woman that always laughs, even if her eyes are full of tears, as she confesses.
Before he died, her husband had been suffering from different illnesses for 20 years. The last years were the hardest times. After a stroke, he started to have epilepsy seizures. “I always had to be by his side, but I couldn’t just stay at home, because I also had to support our three children,” Galina recalled. She used to take him to her job during the day, and she was staying up all night. In order to make the sleepless nights easier, she began to buy and read love novels and detectives, which are now gathered in a personal library.
Beside a folk ensemble, a dance troupe and a marching band, there is a a band of five 18-year-old girls called Angel’s Star in Doroțcaia. The band was formed about 5 years ago.
“I was in the 6th or 7th grade when I joined the band. It was already formed, but it still didn’t have a name and they said they needed a drummer,” said Ana, band’s drummer. The girls are the winners of international contests, doing the rehearsals in a small room of the cultural centre. The room has the walls covered with red carpets, for a better sound.
You can find the house of Maria Crocmazan amid flowers. She has a colourful and fragrant garden, which she takes care of every morning and evening, when the sun does not burn so hard. “In the morning, before work, I go to see them, talk to them and ‘rebuke’ the weed,” confessed Maria, who works as head of village’s warehouse for agricultural goods. Half of her life, she was surrounded by flowers. Maria has always loved them, planted and took care of them.
In Maria’s garden, one can find over 100 rose bushes. She says that the best gift for her is a new flower bud, for which she would choose a place in her garden. Since 2013, Maria has been living in the house she bought from the former mayor of the locality – a hardworking person who built houses, a stadium, a cultural centre, a museum, schools, and an oil mill in the village.
Nina Diordiev works as a secretary at the mayor’s office. She told us that, during the ’92 conflict, she had to come to work, issue reports and send building materials to people whose houses had been destroyed by bombs.
“It was awful. You never knew what was coming”
Nina use to say that during the summer there is no time for rest. After work, she has to work the land. “People rest during the winter,” she said.
Elena Toderiță is responsible for cleaning at the town hall and sings in the Nistrenii Folk Ensemble along with other 20 members. At least, that’s what she did until the pandemic. For the past four months, she has been singing in the kitchen. “Before, we used to say we don’t have much time, but now we want to get together,” she claimed.
Ana Gherlac is a 77-year-old woman who is also called Aunt Hana by villagers. Her whole life was marked by two wars. “I worked my entire life, but I was left with nothing,” she said. You can meet her at 8 o’clock in the morning on the way home, after she went twice to work her lands. Even if it’s hot outside and this weakens her body, her yard is kept in good order. Previously, Aunt Hana had three cows. Now, she has chickens and geese.
“I didn’t sleep at night. I cleaned, cooked, so that during the day I could go to work”
It’s getting harder now. That day, she couldn’t bring home her groceries bag from the store. “I walked a little and got down. Luckily, I met some villagers and they helped me,” Aunt Hana confessed. In 1992, a bomb fell on her house’s barn and shattered it. Her lungs were damaged when she tried to put out the fire.
This article was made with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy.
This text is a translation. The original article here.
Photo: Dionis Nicolai and Tatiana Beghiu
Protecting public health or violating freedom of movement? Protests in Transnistria
On July 02, a protest has been registered in Ribnita (a city in the Transnistrian region). Dozens of city residents who work in Rezina (Moldova), blocked the bridge across the Dniester that connects the two localities. People complained they are not allowed to go to work because the Tiraspol authorities cancelled their permits to cross the bridge.
More than 70 people demanded free access to Moldova, as well as respecting their right to free movement. They also requested the cancellation of the obligation to stay in quarantine for 14 days upon return from Moldova.
On June 29, a decision of Transnistrian authorities has been made, stating that the residents of the Transnistrian region are allowed to enter and leave the region without being quarantined upon return, in case they go to Moldova for maximum 12 hours.
Moreover, citizens from Transnistria, employed by companies on the right bank of the Dniester, were granted a temporary permit issued by the Tiraspol authorities in order to travel freely to their workplace and back. Once the permits were cancelled, these people were left without the possibility to go to work.
The Tiraspol authorities claimed that the permits were cancelled because at least 10 employees of factories in Rezina, who are residents of Ribnita, were infected with COVID-19. Therefore, avoiding a second wave of infections among the inhabitants of the Transnistrian region is aimed, according tot the the so-called Minister of Internal Affairs, Ruslan Mova.
Mova warned that people who organised the protest could be held accountable. He claimed people from Transnistria still have a choice, as they can enter the Republic of Moldova and stay there during the coronavirus pandemic or they can be quarantined when returning to Transnistria.
“The abusive actions of Transnistrian structures are described as an act of defiance of the basic acts of the peacekeeping operation and a total disregard for the decisions approved at Unified Control Commission,” is mentioned in a press release of the the Bureau for Reintegration Policies from Moldova. The Transnistrian manner of distorting the truth, misinforming the Commission and trying to manipulate public opinion was condemned by the Moldovan delegation, highlighting that the reduction in the Commission’s authority is a consequence of Tiraspol’s actions, as it also mentioned in the press release.
On the other hand, the OSCE Mission to Moldova expressed its deep concern about the unexpected cancellation by the Transnistrian side of permits for the residents of the region, is mentioned in an OSCE statement cited by INFOTAG News Agency
Head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova, Claus Neukirch, urged the region’s authorities not to create artificial obstacles to the free movement of residents. “Although health measures are needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, there must be a functioning mechanism to allow people to travel to their jobs, access healthcare services and other urgent needs even during the pandemic,” Neukirch said.
The OSCE Mission to Moldova also urged the Transnistrian administration to dismantle all border checkpoints installed in the last five months.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Tiraspol unilaterally installed 37 illegal checkpoints in the Security Zone. Such actions impeded the free movement of about 50 thousand inhabitants from 11 localities and tensioned the relations between Transnistria and the Republic of Moldova, according to a statement of the Government.
COVID-19 statistics: Moldova’s harmful figures that still can break the European records
In June, the COVID-19 pandemic advanced rapidly in the Republic of Moldova. The number of contaminated persons increased by 92% as compared to May, while the growth was only 23% from April to May, according to a note of the ADEPT association. The same source stated that an increase by 70% in the number of deaths was recorded in June as compared to May.
With the lifting of the state of emergency in Moldova, the National Extraordinary Public Health Commission cancelled several restrictions contrary to the warnings of public health specialists regarding such premature measures: relaunch of dental and hairdressing services, resumption of international rail and road transport of people, markets re-opening and resumption of museums and libraries’ activity. The Commission also approved religious ceremonies in closed spaces, opening shopping malls and outdoor training for performance athletes, as well as regular flights and passenger charters.
As a result, a record number of daily cases and deaths caused by the coronavirus was recorded in June. At the end of the state of emergency (May 15) the total balance of confirmed cases had reached 5 745, with a steady ascending trend. The trend continued in the following weeks, reaching over 2 000 confirmed positive cases per week.
According to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection (MHLSP) data, the peak of the daily cases recorded in Moldova was reached on June 17 – 478 new cases. To date, the total number of confirmed cases is 17 150 and the total number of deaths – 560. The Republic of Moldova ranks the 12th in the list of the European countries with the highest incidence of coronavirus cases – 410.88 cases per 100 000 population.
Another record number that has a huge negative impact on the way the coronavirus pandemic is managed in the country is the rate of the infected medical staff out of the total confirmed cases. Until, July 2, 2 429 cases of infection (13.11% of total cases) have been confirmed among medical staff, including 613 doctors, 28 pharmacists, 974 nurses, 125 janitors, 698 auxiliary personnel, as the MHLSP reported. The number of medical workers infected with COVID-19 has almost the same increase rate as the total number of infections, mentioned the ADEPT association.
The positive test rate is another figure that recorded one of the most significant growths as compared to other European countries. The total positive tests rate recorded since the beginning of testing (in February) is 20.8%, with the highest monthly rate of 24.1% in June. The maximum number of tests performed in one day was 1 659 on June 17. All in all, 82 635 people were tested for the first time and 20 404 were tested repeatedly in Moldova.
The MHLSP warned that the coronavirus also massively affects children. The authorities specified that a total of 824 minors were infected in the Republic of Moldova.
The positive news is that the number of registered active cases decreased during the last days of June. The same tendency was observed as regarding the medical staff. At the same time, the number of recoveries increased during the same period.
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