Library                   Topics



The Industrial Revolution changed the course of human history, expanding the horizon of technical innovations. Although industry pollutes the environment, it also plays a major role in providing solutions to environmental problems, including the development of new processes and machinery for effective pollution abatement.

All manufacturing industries affect the environment to some extent by using energy and raw materials. The environmental impact is greater if those materials are non-renewable. Industrial activities also release waste and transform the landscape.

Industrial emissions have major environmental impacts. In terms of Europe-wide emissions, European industry:

  • contributes to climate change by releasing 30 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions;
  • contributes to acidification by releasing 25 percent of all sulphur dioxide emissions and 21 percent of all nitrogen emissions;
  • contributes to air pollution by releasing 25 percent of all emissions of volatile organic compounds;
  • consumes 53 percent of all water; and
  • generates 7 percent of all phosphorous and 10 percent of all nitrogen discharges.

Industry generates 29 percent of all waste produced in Europe, and disturbs the urban environment by generating 10 percent of all noise.

Serious efforts are being made to make industry greener. They include:

  • the development of new economic instruments that encourage industries to add an environmental dimension to their production and management policies;
  • growing interest amongst banks and insurance companies in cleaner industries;
  • the development of cleaner processes and products;
  • the improvement of techniques for managing and controlling production processes; and
  • innovative approaches such as voluntary agreements, environmental management, environmental liability, green procurement and environmental taxation.

Consumers also have an important role to play. They can:

  • support companies that offer environmentally sound products (phosphate-free washing powder, Freon-free aerosols, recycled paper, reusable products etc.);
  • take part in environmental impact assessments of new industrial projects, or environmental audit procedures of old industrial activities, which influence decision-making processes; and
  • apply pressure to help reduce the negative impacts of industrial activities and minimise the use of resources and energy.

Belarusian industry accounts for 25 percent of the country's total gross domestic product (GDP). Eighty percent of production in the country comes from four industries: engineering and metalworking, food processing, chemicals, and petrochemicals.

Environmental pollution affects the functioning of the major enterprises that contribute to the national economy, thus damaging the country's economic potential as well as its environment. Pollutants also reach Belarus from neighbouring countries via rivers or the air. In addition, there are many unresolved environmental problems associated with previously irresponsible industrial practices.

Scientists have linked the following environmental problems to industrial activity: air pollution; the pollution of surface water and groundwater; soil pollution and degradation; and waste generation.

Waste generation
  • Since 2009, Belarus has produced an annual average of 34.656 million tonnes of waste, 68 percent of which are halite residues and clay-salt sludge generated by the potash industry.
  • Potash mining and subsequent waterlogging in the Salihorsk area have led to the accumulation of approximately 780 million tonnes of halite sludge, causing noticeable changes to the landscape of the Pripyat River basin.
  • Waste heaps containing toxins are subject to wind and water erosion, which lead to the salinisation and contamination of fresh groundwater and surface water sources, including private and hydrogeological wells. Salt dumping and the storage of sludge from the Salihorsk potash mines have affected groundwater at a depth of 100 m over an area of 15 km2, and the scale of the damage is expanding. Subsidence of the Earth’s surface leads to earthquakes: the village of Pogost in the Salihorsk district experienced an earthquake on March 15, 1998, that reached an intensity of 5.0. Statistical data since 2009 indicate higher than average levels of morbidity within a 20 km radius of mining areas.
  • Industry in Belarus is responsible for up to 25 percent of all emissions released into the atmosphere within its territory. It also produces 34 percent of particulate emissions, 32 percent of nitrogen oxides, 23 percent of volatile organic compounds, and lesser amounts of sulphur dioxide and heavy metals.
  • Sulphur dioxide emissions are associated with the electric power industry, lead emissions with the production of building materials, and cadmium emissions with the engineering and metalworking industry.
  • Gas and dust cleaning systems capture more than 2.5 tonnes of pollutants each year, with an effectiveness rate of 82 to 88 percent.

Air quality

The quality of air in monitored cities can be regarded as normal:

  • Average concentrations of priority pollutants are generally below maximum permissible concentrations.
  • Daily average concentrations of total particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide exceed maximum permissible concentrations only in some cities.
  • The number of hotspots in terms of air pollution in industrial centres fell by 22 percent between 2007 and 2009.
  • There has been a steady decline in levels of formaldehyde emissions in most monitored cities.
  • Sulphur dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are steadily decreasing, although nitrogen dioxide concentrations in the air have risen 1.2 to 2.0 times in some cities.
  • Concentrations of particulate matter have risen by 1.2 to 2.1 times in cities in the Gomel region (Gomel, Mozyr, Rechica), as well as in Vitebsk and Grodno.

Legal framework

Belarus has a sufficiently developed legal framework in the field of environmental protection and the rational use of natural resources:

  • Despite high rates of economic growth, Belarus has reduced pollutant emissions and has achieved a relatively stable environment through funding for environmental protection.
  • Regulations aim to encourage economic entities to reduce their environmental impacts by reducing energy and resource consumption, and to adopt preventive measures to ensure environmental safety.
  • The National Environmental Monitoring System is one of the main drivers of state policy in the field of environmental protection.