Outlook on Climate Change Adaptation in the Western Balkan Mountains
The Western Balkans is a designation used (most commonly by the European Union) for a region which includes Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo. 1 The region, considered mountainous in its own right, 2 includes the Dinaric Arc mountain range, which stretches across Albania, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, and Kosovo. 1 Mountains and the complex terrain of the region have contributed to shaping this region, forging strong local identities and, with external influences, producing a complex matrix of several languages, religions, and world views. The region retains some of Europe’s richest areas with regards to natural habitats, biological diversity, karst phenomena and lakes and rivers. With the exception of Albania, all the countries of the Western Balkans were formerly part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, which dissolved in 1991. While the rest of emerging Europe transitioned peacefully out of communism and into democracy, many Western Balkans countries spent the 1990s engulfed in conflict following this disintegration, which caused widespread devastation, delayed the countries’ economic transformation and has resulted in markedly lower living standards compared with the EU countries. Yet in the 2000s, these countries all made impressive gains in rebuilding their war-torn economies and transitioning to market economies.
Today, the countries of the Western Balkans are at a turning point in the development of their economies, societies and environment. A number of social, economic and other drivers will shape the region’s future. Integration with the European Union and EU accession are the principal objectives for countries in the region (Croatia having joined in 2013), in the hope that they will bring security, stability and prosperity to the peoples of the region. Closer integration with the EU will strongly influence environmental and climate policies, laws and actions in the coming decades. The region as a whole faces similar environmental problems, which need to be tackled both within the countries themselves and across borders. There are legacy issues related to war, former industrial and mining sites, illegal dumping of waste, and the extraction of minerals. Improving air quality, the protection and use of water bodies, the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable management of land, forest and water resources are all pressing priorities of the region. The shift from the industrial past to advanced, post-industrial economies is bringing about a shift in consumerism and challenging ecological sustainability. Climate change will bring additional challenges and pose additional risks to ecosystems and society. As a whole, the region is expected to become drier, with more heat extremes. This will coincide with extreme weather events such as heavy precipitation, resulting in flooding.
Kamberovica, Bosnia and Herzegovina
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