Latvia’s State Forests' collect more than 1,000 cubic meters of illegally dumped trash from the forests every year. Experts agree that the urge to illegally dispose of waste for free will only increase in the coming years due to the disorganized waste management system, reported Latvian Radio.
Environment SOS was created four years ago to promote citizen involvement in dealing with environmental issues. In the first three years activity remained around one and a half to two thousand alerts per year. This year there was a substantially greater number of alerts - four thousand alerts about environmental violations have already been received this year, according to State Environmental Service Monitoring Department Senior Inspector Ruta Poikāne.
“Most alerts involve trash dumped in the forests, such as debris, tires, plastic bottles and old furniture, which is usually dumped deep in the woods,” explains Poikāne.
Citizens also send alerts about illegal fishing nets in rivers and lakes, as well as about bad smells from industrial or farming operations. There have been more resounding cases, such as when chemicals were dumped at a roadside in Zemgale in the spring. This was recorded by residents.
''Alerts about bad industrial smells and chemical pollution are sent to the State Environmental Service regional departments. We inform municipalities, Latvia’s State Forests or Riga Forests about trash and sewage, and the State Plant Protection Service about sprayed chemicals,'' lists Poikāne.
Although it’s possible to follow violation resolution on a map both online and on the app, Environmental Protection Club (Vides aizsardzības klubs) Elita Kalniņa maintains that the app users still lack feedback, especially in cases where the problem is not dealt with in any way by the responsible authorities.
“In the future the app could have a broader function, expanding it where people can also report nature conservation violations. People frequently aren’t able to evaluate whether a violation is associated with an environmental protection or nature conservation issue,” says Kalniņa.
A majority of this year’s alerts were from regular Environmental SOS users, but 10-15% were first-time users. The State Environmental Service urges residents to clean up the area themselves in smaller cases, and to record this in the app.