Greenpeace hits the road
in Central and Eastern Europe



Industrial water pollution - the campaign’s priority issue



Credit: Grennpeace/ Alfredo Jagendorfer
Clean Water Tour 2002 stops over in Bratislava

In summer 2002, Greenpeace launched its "Clean Water Tour”, a new awareness-raising campaign in the Danube Basin focusing on industrial pollution in the Upper Tisza Basin. Greenpeace, whose new strategy includes co-operation and partnership activities with authorities and industries, exists to give this fragile Earth the voice that it deserves. The Earth needs solutions. It needs change. It needs action.
As a global non-profit organisation, Greenpeace is active in 40 countries worldwide. The organnisation focuses on the most crucial global threats to our planet's biodiversity and the environment. The organisation has no permanent allies or enemies and promotes open, informed debate about society's environmental choices. In pursuing its goals, Greenpeace relies on research, lobbying and quiet diplomacy, but it does sometimes resort to high-profile, non-violent conflict in order to raise the quality of public debate.
Environmental campaigning
In 2000 Greenpeace decided to expand its activities, through its Vienna office, to Central and Eastern Europe, namely to Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. The reasons are obvious: high pollution on the one hand, and valuable but endangered natural resources on the other. The pressing need for environmental campaigning has only been highlighted by the serious gold- mining accident at Baia Mare that in January 2000 destroyed nearly all life in the Tisza River.
The "Clean Water Tour 2002”, focusing on the Upper Tisza region, is the first large-scale project launched by Greenpeace in Central and Eastern Europe. Before launching the campaign, Greenpeace had conducted a detailed assessment of all major industrial water pollution hot spots and had consulted local governmental and NGO experts. As a tangible output of the assessment, a map was produced of both high-risk and ongoing pollution hot spots including their detailed description.
A range of diverse international delegations visited Romania in the wake of the Baia Mare accident, including experts from the EU, national governments, UNDP, US-EPA and many others. They were all so busy researching facts, talking to decision makers and promoting themselves that they raised among the local population and institutions high expectations in terms of support. The expectations were not met - only some small concrete help came in response to the disaster, such as the EU "Task Force” report. Greenpeace has found that as long as two and a half years after the accident nearly nothing has changed with regard to the pollution it caused, apart from some small-scale local efforts. This was a sufficient reason for Greenpeace to start campaigning against water pollution caused by industry.
Greenpeace has come to realise that due to the social, political and historical differences of the CEE countries, a specific regional strategy is necessary if concrete environmental improvements are to be made. This strategy must be clearly based on co-operation and must be solution-orientated. During the early stage of the project, Greenpeace sought to make positive contacts with all relevant stakeholders, including the authorities and the polluting industries. In most cases, some initial reservations the public had towards Greenpeace were easily overcome.
The "Clean Water Tour 2002”, was actually only the first part of the three-part clean water project launched by Greenpeace. The tour part was aimed at increasing public awareness. The Greenpeace bus visited a total of over 80 towns in Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Volunteers on board the bus informed thousands of interested people while chemists analysed countless drinking water samples. Nitrate and lead were identified as the main contaminants.


Solution-oriented communication

Credit: Grennpeace/ Alfredo Jagendorfer
Working towards a better environment

The second part of the project consisted of direct actions at industrial hot spots, which were carried out only in cases when companies initially refused to cooperate. Two larger actions were conducted at the Somes Dej paper factory in Romania and the EMV herbicide producer in Hungary. In both cases, a solution-oriented communication between the environmentalists and the company was established following the protest and concrete environmental improvements are now likely to happen.
Apart from these public activities, Greenpeace decided to launch a concrete fund-raising and lobbying project. The Baia-Mare-based, state-owned mining company, Remin, was found to be the most suitable partner for such a project. Remin is the biggest water polluter in the Baia Mare region, willing to improve the situation but lacking the financial means to do it. Together with Zinke Environment Consulting, a local expert and the local authorities, Greenpeace has developed an investment portfolio for seven pollution reduction projects in Baia Mare and Baia Borsa. Although the total volume of these projects is only EUR2.5m, they would still reduce the waste water emissions by 80 %, and the Novat pond risk spot near Baia Borsa, the site of the second major mining accident in 2000, would be eliminated. This portfolio has been officially endorsed by the Romanian government and has also triggered the interest of potential international donors including the EU Delegation, UNDP and national governments. The Austrian Ministry for Foreign Affairs is seriously considering co-financing the Baia Borsa project. It is very likely that several of these projects will be financed in 2003, but more donors are needed if this window of opportunity is to be opened.
A lot of work still remains to be done, but Greenpeace is committed to continuing to campaign for a better environment in the Danube region.


Herwig Schuster