The strategic objective of environmental policy is to attain a healthy, clean and safe environment in Lithuania, which would address the needs of society, environmental protection and the economy in a sustainable way. The plans are to ensure a long-term rational and sustainable use and protection of natural resources as well as the restoration and, where possible, enhancement of renewable natural resources by providing conditions for sustainable economic development.
Under the National Environmental Protection Strategy by 2030 and the Lithuanian Environmental Vision by 2050, the efforts to attain a clean, healthy and safe environment and sustainable growth of the state will include optimal use of nature, restoration and preservation of natural resources and development of innovative technologies and green economy so that the satisfaction of current needs does not reduce the quality of life and opportunities for future generations.
Over the past two decades, the environmental pollution of Lithuania has been steadily decreasing, and the attention has been increasingly shifting toward the environmental quality and securing the rights of society to a safe and clean environment: the public services of drinking water and wastewater treatment as well as the municipal waste management have been developing rapidly, the quality of these services has been improving, the forest coverage of Lithuania has been increasing consistently, and the restoration of biological diversity has been underway. Lithuania is classified as one of the cleanest countries in Europe in terms of the heavy metal content in soil and the quality of ambient air, and Lithuania is also one of the few countries in Europe and worldwide where the population exclusively consumes high-quality groundwater for their needs.
Despite economic growth, greenhouse gas emissions have been declining over this period as well. The forest coverage of Lithuania has been increasing consistently: in 2012, forests covered 33.3 per cent of the country’s territory, which was slightly higher than the European average. For ensuring better ecosystem stability, the national forest coverage will be increased up to 35 per cent by 2030.
Significant improvements have been achieved in other environmental sectors as well, particularly, after Lithuania’s accession to the European Union (EU), in implementing EU directives and assimilating EU assistance funds. The danger to the environment and the consumption of water from natural bodies of water have been markedly reduced by the decommissioning of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), the largest nuclear energy entity in the Baltic region.
Nevertheless, the assessment of the environmental status show that there is still a number of pollution sources and environmental wounds: approximately 77 per cent of municipal waste (the majority of which is suitable for recycling or alternative energy production) is disposed in landfills. The Curonian Lagoon, the Baltic Sea coastal zone, approximately 2/3 of Lithuanian rivers and approximately 1/3 of lakes still do not meet the good water status requirements. In major cities of Lithuania such as Vilnius, Kaunas, Klaipėda, Šiauliai and Panevėžys, the threshold values of particulate matter in ambient air are often exceeded, while the threshold values of benzo(a)pyrene in ambient air are constantly exceeded. Sub-optimal structure of land use, uncontrolled urban sprawl and other factors have led to the degradation of landscape, deterioration of soil quality and decline of biodiversity and ecosystems in several regions of the country. Urbanisation processes in Lithuania are still not fully compliant with the principles of sustainable development.