Involving local communities in decision making The role of health and environment NGOs in Romania Mihaela Vasilescu Medium et Sanitas – Environment and Health Association Bucharest, Romania
Background information • Contamination of drinking water is one of the most pressing health and environment issues of today's Romania, both for rural and urban areas. Water quality and availability has deteriorated so much that it has become a threat to people’s health. • However, even for the population of the larger cities connected to the public water distribution system, drinking water is often not safe: lack of good waste-water treatment plants, leaking pipes causing contamination, high percent of leakage. • Another problem in cities is the intermittence of supply.
Background information • Romania has a population of 22,755,269 inhabitants. • About 64% out of total population is connected to water networks: 16% of rural population and 85% of urban population. • Coverage with drinking water is in range of 53% - 100 %. • The intermittence in water distribution affect 36.1 % of population. • 5.5 % of population receive drinking water bacteriological unsafe. • The water price is about 0.42 USD/cubic meter. • The water consumption is as average 256 l/person/day.
Background information • Romania is a signatory part of international conventions: • Water and Health Protocol • Aarhus Convention • POPs Convention (Persistent Organic Pollutants). • Romania has applied for membership in the EU. • Legislation : Law no.458/2002 regarding drinking water, the transposition of the Directive 98/83/CEE • Next priorities in order to achieve the goals of implementing and enforcing the directives are to: • Strengthen the administrative and institutional capacity at the national level and local levels and • Elaborate directive-specific implementation plans, including financial aspects.
Safe Drinking Water - Catalyst for Citizen’s Involvement in Romania • Partners: M&S and WECF • The main problems that need to be addressed: • Health problems from pollution and shortage of Drinking Water • Lack of awareness and knowledge among citizens and policy makers about sustainable solutions to the drinking water problems.
Objectives on short term • To raise public awareness on water quality as an essential step towards better health among the 85 - 130 people of the target group. The awareness raising campaign will look at opportunities for change at an individual, local and national level and focus on vulnerable groups: children, pregnant women, elderly. • To mobilize the citizens of the pilot city and pilot rural commune to take on more responsibility for their health and environment situation and to become more active in local policy making regarding water management. • To involve women more actively in local policy making and implementing local solutions for cleaner drinking water • To identify short and medium term solutions for the improvement of water quality in the pilot town and the rural community • To develop 2 practical water improvement project. These water improvement projects will preferably target the drinking water related risks for vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women, elderly.
Objectives on short term • To provide the 85 –130 citizens and NGO project participants with tools for building democracy in their region by providing training, taking part in local policy making debates, developing a network of NGOs and setting-up an active media strategy to spread the experiences and knowledge of the target group to other citizens groups. A link will be made to the groups working on the Local Agenda 21 project (MKOE supported by MATRA). • To make use of the Aarhus convention and the water protocol, to give NGO input to the drafting committees preparing new drinking water legislation. The experience from the 2 pilot projects (city + rural) will be used to convince the government representatives that the worries of citizens have to be taken seriously and that citizens should be involved in setting policy priorities. • More than 5000 people will gain knowledge on practical solutions for clean drinking water and improved health, and opportunities for public participation in decision making • To create more transparency and involvement of authorities in improving the drinking water situation between the local and national authorities, citizens representatives, health experts, water experts and representatives of water utilities as part of the project activities: multi-stakeholder workshops, community meetings, involvement in national drafting committees.
Objectives on long term • Contribute to the development of a participatory democracy in Romania with citizens – particularly women – who will be able to stand up for their right of a clean and healthy environment and will participate in the political decision making process, with the theme “clean drinking water” used as a catalyst for citizen involvement. • Develop a strong network of local environmental NGOs, skilled and experienced in NGO activities, which have a substantial influence on the local environment and health situation and will continue to be a strong force for local sustainable development even after project ending.
Objectives on long term • Create a reliable information pool, aimed to improve the accuracy and the amount of information the public receives, and to shift the stress from the “breaking news” characteristic of the topic in the present, to a more serious and helpful approach that raises awareness and prevents the problems occurrence. This information pool (library, website, database…) will be available to the public also after project ending. • Provide clean drinking water for the communities where the practical water improvement projects will take place. This will continue also after project ending.
Urban pilot project - Slobozia • Activities: • Involve local NGOs: organize a project launch meeting with local NGOs of the city of Slobozia , present the project plans, agree on regular meetings and cooperation. • Inventory: carry out a spot-analysis (a few exemplary water analyses) to get an indication of the seriousness of the drinking water pollution • Public survey: carry out a survey in the project city, to measure citizens’ opinion and knowledge about quality of drinking water, needs for improvement and individual motivation, as well as attitude, knowledge and public participation in solution building at community level. This survey will provide important arguments for the dialogue with local authorities. The survey will also help to measure the project results at the end of the project.
Urban pilot project - Slobozia • Produce and publish educational materials about the solutions for better drinking water at individual and community level. These educational materials will be distributed during the multi-stakeholder workshop and given to the press. The materials will also be used for work with school children: role games on healthy water use, distribution of leaflets… • Multi-stakeholder workshop: organise a multi-stakeholder workshop on the solutions for clean drinking water at individual and community level and the need for public participation, involving NGO, government representatives, scientists, business people. The local press will be invited. The workshop will look at existing legislation, infrastructure and practices and involve the NGO, scientists and business representatives in identifying needed changes. The workshop will also look at the responsibility of individual and business users (e.g. waste of drinking water in private homes…). • Develop a practical implementation project : e.g. this could be installing a water purification device in a kindergarten or working with a large flat-building on reducing the waste of drinking water (installing water meters, monitoring the water use..). Depending on the cost of the implementation project, additional fund-raising might be required.
Public Survey - Results • Questionnaire of 23 questions applied to 250 households. • Main public complaints:
Public Survey - Results • Frequency of digestive problems
Public Survey - Results • Water borne diseases
Public Survey - Results • General opinion about tap water quality
Public Survey - Results • Opinion towards the quality of water and water services
Public Survey - Results • Need of information
Conclusions • Coverage by public water supply: 98,8% out of total number of households • 95% of households have pipes inside the buildings in good condition • 2% of pipes are made by lead • Water meters are installed in 93% of households • Continuous water supply is assured for 93,9% of households • Population consider as good the quality of tap water and supply services • The most frequent complains are related with deposits and taste • 50% of population use a volume of water in range of 30-100 l/day, meaning that the basic hygiene is assured • 34% use less than 50 l/person/day, considered by WHO as a minimum for basic hygiene
Conclusions • 98% of population asks for information regarding drinking water quality and health related issues • The majority of the population has problems related with water bills and declares that is not able to pay them in time • They say that: • water should be affordable and accessible • tap water should be in compliance with legal requirements regarding quality • tap water should be under local administration and public control.
Framework for actions • Education is a key pathway to developing sustainable values and lifestyles; emphasis is on changing institutions and management, nationally and internationally. • Education: environmental courses at schools and governmental public campaigns to educate the public will help change current consumption patterns. • Local empowerment and effective public and stakeholder participation in decision-making. • Decision-making at the lowest appropriate level.
Framework for actions • Transparent processes. • Learning from previous experiences. • Accessible data, analytical tools and information. • Compliance monitoring. • Leadership and political commitment.