Press Releases

    13 December 2004

    UNEP Warns of Environmental Risks from Floods and Industrial Pollution in Tisza River Basin

    New Environmental Assessment Launched at Danube Ministerial Meeting

    (Re-issued as received)

    VIENNA/GENEVA, 13 December -- Almost five years after a cyanide spill from a gold mine in northern Romania travelled down the Tisza river in Hungary, leaving a trail of ecological destruction in its wake, local communities in the region remain at risk from floods and industrial pollution.

    Despite the lessons learned from the Baia Mare catastrophe in January 2000, the Tisza river basin, its people and nature remain threatened by environmental insecurity, in particular from floods and accidental pollution risks, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

    The new report notes that the Tisza river basin ecosystem is regenerating itself after the cyanide accident, with wildlife largely recovering.  But, it says more concerted action is needed to address environmental threats or “insecurities”, and recommends an “Integrated Sustainable Development Strategy” for the entire catchment area of the river Tisza, which includes Romania, Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia and Montenegro.

    The report, Rapid Environmental Assessment of the Tisza River Basin, was presented to the first Ministerial Meeting of the Danube River Protection Convention, in Vienna today, where Ministers are launching the development of a  River Basin Management Plan for the Tisza, one of the main tributaries of the mighty river Danube.

    “UNEP welcomes and supports the Tisza initiative launched at the Danube River Basin Ministerial Meeting,” said Frits Schlingemann, UNEP’s Regional Director for Europe.  “In connection, a new regional strategy for sustainable development is necessary to integrate land and water use aspects, as well as conservation measures (such as the prevention of deforestation or restoration of alluvial forests) in support of better flood management.”

    “Flood management and the prevention of transboundary pollution risks will have the double added value to protect people and the environment, and to provide regional stability across national borders,” he said. 

    “Sustainable tourism can offer a development alternative for the prosperity of the region when environmental security is guaranteed, in particular in the precious mountain landscapes of the upper Tisza basin in the Carpathian mountains,” he added.

    In the wake of the Baia Mare spill, hot spots of potential accidental pollution risk from mining operations (including from obsolete mining sites) are singled out by the new UNEP report for particular attention. Assessments and urgent risk mitigation measures are called for.

    The report is available on the web at:

    Copies of the report are available in Vienna from:

    Mr. Harald Egerer
    Programme Officer, Natural Resources
    United Nations Environment Programme - Vienna
    Interim Secretariat of the Carpathian Convention
    UNEP Vienna - ISCC
    Room: JOE 25
    Vienna International Center
    PO Box 500, A 1400 Vienna, Austria
    Tel: + 43 1  26060 4545
    Fax: +43 1 26060 74545
    Mobile: +43 664 830 38 80

    For more information, please contact: Robert Bisset, UNEP Spokesperson for Europe on
    Tel: +33 1 44377613, Mobile: +33 6 22725842, E-mail:

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    UNEP News Release Paris 2004/20