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Saturday, 23 March, 2002, 07:43 GMT
Environmentalists mull river clean-up
A fisherman with dead fish in Romania
Thousands of fish were killed in the cyanide spill
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By Nick Thorpe
Tirgu Mures, Romania
Environmentalists from East and Central Europe are meeting in the Romanian city of Tirgu Mures to discuss ways to clean up the heavily polluted rivers of the region.

Two years have passed since cyanide and heavy metals from Romanian mines devastated life in the Tisza river.

Protests by the River Tisza
The Aurul spill drew mass protests
Scientists co-operate closely to monitor the state of the rivers, but are asking their governments to do more to enforce existing laws to protect the environment.

"Let the rivers run free and clean" is the title of the conference in Tirgu Mures.

Environmentalists from Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Ukraine have been working closely together for the past decade, gathering and publishing details of the flora and fauna of the many rivers flowing down from the Carpathian mountains.

Gravel extraction

This conference is a chance to pool their experiences and appeal to the governments and water management authorities, who are also taking part in the conference, to prevent further disruption.

The problems of the rivers, highlighted by the cyanide and heavy metal spills two years ago, are enormous. Gravel and sand extraction have scraped the riverbed down to the bedrock in places, speeding up the flow of rivers and leaving little for fish to feed on.

Deforestation in Ukraine and Romania cause floods each spring. Waste from mines and other industries and nutrients from sewage and agriculture also cause serious harm.

On the positive side, the desire of all the countries in the region to join the European Union means they all feel the outside pressure to raise environmental standards. But the cost often makes this difficult.

The environmentalists meeting in Tirgu Mures hope that increased public awareness of the problems at home and abroad will help save this still beautiful but badly damaged region.

See also:

13 Feb 00 | Europe
Cyanide spill reaches Danube
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