Belgrade, 11 October 2007 - South Eastern Europe needs stronger drought monitoring and early warning systems to prevent future hardships and economic losses like those caused by 2007's devastating regional drought, Constantin Mihailescu, Moldova's Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, said today.
The drought, which was the worst in Moldova's recorded history, caused losses of US$1 billion to its national economy, with agriculture being the worst affected sector, Mr Mihailescu said during the European Union Environment Ministers' Meeting in Belgrade on 10-11 October. The drought affected more than 80% of Moldovan territory.
Moldova supports this year's proposal by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to establish a Drought Management Centre for South Eastern Europe (DMCSEE), based in Slovenia, with the support of 11 regional countries. But the DMCSEE had not yet become operational, Mr Mihailescu said.
"If the DMCSEE was functional six months ago, it would have been able to provide the kind of information needed by the government and the agricultural community to take various kinds of pro-active actions that could have offset the impacts of the drought, such as increased irrigation or use of alternative crops," Mr Mihailescu said. "I hope that the international community will provide the assistance needed to make this centre operational."
Moldova's drought started in the Autumn of 2006 with rainfall between 1 September, 2006, to 6 August, 2007, at 50%-70% below average. The situation was most severe in May-June 2007 with only 30% of normal rainfall. The continuous period without rain varied between 28 to 73 days, while the number of days with maximum temperatures above 30�C was 36-45 days, some three times higher than normal.
Moldova's agricultural sector suffered most, with principal crops such as corn, sunflower, sugar beet, and tobacco, as well as fruit trees, being affected. Industrial enterprises linked to these were also left without raw material. The livestock situation is also very acute with negative repercussions predicted for 2008.
The frequency of droughts and intensity of natural hazards in Moldova has increased in recent times, particularly in the last two decades, when catastrophic droughts occurred in 1994, 2000, 2003 and 2007.
Shortages of rain and its unequal distribution cause frequent and severe droughts. The probability of very severe droughts occurring (� 50% of normal precipitation) with catastrophic consequences during Moldova's crop growing period is 11-41%. In 1990, 1992 and 2003, droughts continued during the entire vegetation period of April to September, while previously they had occurred only in summer.