Environmental issues in Austria
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The Ministry of Health and Environmental Protection of Austria, established in 1972, is responsible for the coordination at the national level of all environmental protection efforts, addressing its efforts toward problems including waste disposal, pollution, noise, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide levels, as well as emissions by the iron, steel, and ceramics industries. A toxic waste law enacted in 1984 established strict regulations for the collection, transport, and disposal of dangerous substances.
The Austrian government has imposed strict regulations on gas emissions, which helped to reduce sulfur dioxide by two-thirds over an eight-year period beginning in 1980. In 1992 Austria was among the 50 countries with the highest level of industrial carbon dioxide emissions, producing 56.6 million metric tons of emissions, or 7.29 m tons per capita. In 1996, the level rose to 59.3 million metric tons. In 2000, the total was 60.8 million metric tons.
Austrians continue to fight the problem of acid rain which has damaged 25% of the country’s forests. In general, environmental legislation is based on the “polluter pays” principle. The water resources fund of the Ministry for Buildings and Technology distributed more than $20 billion for canalization and waste-water purification plants between 1959 and the early 1980s; the Danube and the Mur have been the special focus of efforts to improve water quality.
As of 2002, there were at least 83 species of mammals, 230 breeding and wintering bird species, and over 3,000 species of plants. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 5 types of mammals, 8 species of birds, 7 species of fish, 22 types of mollusks, 22 other invertebrates, and 3 species of plants. Endangered species include Freya’s damselfly, the dusky large blue butterfly, slender-billed curlew, bald ibis, Danube salmon, and the European mink. About 33% of the total land area is protected, including 19 Ramsar wetland sites.