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Addressing the many environmental problems currently facing the ECA countries is closely linked with the progress made in implementing important structural reforms. Considerable effort will be needed to promote the efficient use of resources through privatizations in the consumer and industrial sectors of the economy. Assessing the real costs of water, reforming water and sewage utilities through the elimination of subsidies and raising of tariffs, plus ensuring that more cost-effective methods of natural resource management are introduced are just some of the measures that must be taken to address these environmental challenges. An enormous effort is also required in terms of energy reform. Many countries need to reduce fuel subsidies, introduce incentives to make their energy sectors more competitive, promote lead-free fuel, and introduce metering into district heating systems.

The Environment Team in the Europe and Central Asia Region of the World Bank’s Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network is committed to trying to help countries in the region address the many environmental challenges they currently face. Comprised of twenty international and national professionals with experience in a wide range of fields, the Environment Team is engaged directly in some twenty projects and indirectly in more than 50 additional projects across the region.

Priority areas emphasized in projects include: water rehabilitation and reform, district heating and solid waste services; encouraging greater energy efficiency; promoting clean water supply and sanitation in rural areas; ensuring better land, soil, and forest management; promoting private-sector-led growth with environmental protection incentives; supporting a transparent legal and regulatory environmental framework; and assisting climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, coastal zone management and regional efforts to clean-up and protect the Baltic, Black, Caspian, and Aral Seas, and the Danube River.

The team operates in close cooperation with colleagues working on energy infrastructure, particularly urban water and district heating, as well as agriculture, rural development, and forestry. Close ties have also been established with the poverty reduction and human development groups to examine linkages among poverty, health, economic growth, structural reforms, and the environment. The team is also responsible for enforcing the World Bank’s environmental safeguards, ensuring that the environmental aspects of all ECA region projects are assessed and that all measures possible are put in place to protect the environment. The team also performs an integral part in the preparation of Country Assistance Strategies (CAS), Comprehensive Development Frameworks (CDF) , and Poverty Reduction Strategies (PRS) for ECA countries.

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