OCEANIC CLUB - interview
Photo by Adrian Boioglu
Răzvan Popescu Mirceni, Executive Manager of "Oceanic Club" - Marine Oceanographic Exploration and Protection Society, NGO with 25 years of activity, the first non-governmental institution in this field in Romania, shared with us some thoughts about the objectives and activities of our project, especially regarding atmospheric pollution.
GREEN DANUBE project will make measurements of the main air pollutants generated by inland waterways transport. The areas selected by the project partners are: the Danube Delta on the Sulina Channel, the Iron Gates I, Gemenc in Hungary, and the fourth area is the Danube confluence with the Inn River, Engelhartszell, on the border between Austria and Germany.
Q: Through B-Watch Operational Programme, Oceanic Club monitors biodiversity from the perspective of two groups of species: invasive and threatened species. Have there been any consequences of atmospheric pollution on them? What is the effect of atmospheric pollution on people in environmentally sensitive areas?
RPM: Atmospheric pollution has many forms and typologies depending on many factors, starting from the groups of elements and chemicals that generate it, continuing with the volume and number of sources that generate atmospheric pollution, local weather characteristics, landform and so on. Inevitably there are consequences, sometimes easily detected, sometimes hidden. The most difficult to combat are those consequences hard to detect or undetectable. For instance, the disappearance of a species of insects from an area due to atmospheric pollution, can lead to a whole series of effects leading to the change of the vegetation landscape with consequences difficult to calculate for the viability of an ecosystem or a complex of ecosystems. Where stone quarries are, for example, on vast areas around them, due to particulate matter pollution, there are perimeters where over 90% of the vegetation disappeared and a desert landscape appeared instead. In Măcin area we have such an example right on the bank of a Danube branch. The effects of other categories of atmospheric pollution can be found in the form of accumulation of residual harmful substances in plants and animals living in the area of influence of the respective sources.
If we refer to people, the effects may be temporary or long term. If pollution is constant, even though at a low level or depending on the season, this will be visible in the health status of the local population, although most of the time the effects are observable in the statistics after many years. Sometimes, if we talk about short intense exposures, the impact may be fatal.
Fortunately, in recent years in Europe, along the Danube there have been no such serious incidents that the atmospheric pollution would cause the immediate death of those directly exposed. However, in those Danubian localities more exposed to the cumulative effects of atmospheric pollution, medical statistics show a higher incidence of diseases associated with the respiratory system.
Within our project, four Environmental Information Centres will be set up, one in Romania, in Galaţi, one in Serbia, one in Croatia, and a mobile one in Hungary, to be used in a transnational campaign to cover also Bulgaria, Austria and Germany .
Q: After 25 years in the field, what do you think about this way of informing the Romanian public and what other options do you think would be useful for our message to have a strong impact on the specialized public and on the population in general?
RPM: This information method is useful and viable. Unfortunately, the Romanian public and not even the Eastern European as a whole do not have a sufficient level of education / training for an adequate understanding of strictly professional information about the parameters in which some elements or substances exist in the atmosphere. Therefore, this information should be supported by information on the normal levels to which the parameters should fit, and also on what health and environmental effects each of the measured and displayed parameters has.
The online media is extremely effective as a communication tool, especially the most popular social networks and so it may be an application dedicated to those interested, which could be downloaded on mobile terminals and would provide access to information of interest, including for passing groups such as tourists (knowing that the Danube is a highly frequented touristic route, still expanding).
One of our objectives is to develop a Policy Agenda that integrates into the regional, national, and European legislative framework the key conclusions that we will have reached as a result of assessing the state of play, analysing current environmental policies and validating that agenda by stakeholders.
Q: Do we still need new laws and rules to regulate various fields of activity and to help protect the environment?
RPM: Existing laws cover a fairly wide range of issues related to the protection of the environment. However, they must be permanently adapted and supplemented. Ecosystems are alive and, therefore, dynamic. They are evolving. So is human society. That is why constant and careful monitoring of evolution and change is needed. Starting from the results of such monitoring, new normative acts can be developed and older ones that have become inconsistent with the reality of the moment can be adapted or even cancelled.