|Silistra District regional landfill|
|Service Areas:||Solid Waste Management|
|Municipalities:||Silistra, Alfatar, Kainardja, Sitovo, Glavinitsa, Dulovo|
|Contact persons:||Teodor Velikov, Iordan Efremov|
|Legal form:||Commercial company|
IMC allows local governments to adopt high standards in waste collection and disposal, closure of unregulated dumpsites as well as management of a regional landfill in an environmentally sound way.
In the area of waste management, municipalities assume a variety of responsibilities, such as:
This list of tasks presents different challenges for larger, urban municipalities with regulated landfills (such as Silistra) and smaller, rural municipalities. Thus, in 1998, when the process of transposition of the EU Directive on Waste started, the rural local authorities in Silistra Danube Region had insufficient experience in planning and implementing a waste management system and had never operated regulated dumpsites. Although their inhabitants had been generating large quantities of agricultural crop residues and manure, they had not been able to establish appropriate methods for managing waste. In addition, most of the City Councils (e.g. Alfatar and Kainardja) had set the waste fee at the lowest level and the administrations lacked financial capacity and administrative competence to introduce waste management services in most of the villages. Such deficiency in service provision led to a large number of unregulated landfill sites, impacting the ecological status of the Danube.
The Municipality of Silistra had made significant progress because it had already required experience in managing an official landfill 8 km away from the city and its waste management system. This local authority faced a different challenge: upgrading the landfill in order to comply with the EU environmental regulations and to improving the efficiency of the waste management services.
During the process of EU integration, six municipalities in Silistra District had to meet the EU requirements on waste management and treatment, and thus incorporate them into the Bulgarian environmental laws. Good practices serve to reverse the general trend in Bulgaria in carrying out waste disposal without focusing on its environmental impact.
In general, good practices assists the partners in meeting the requirements of the following EC Directives:
Starting from different levels of waste management competence and experience, the municipalities needed to apply the National Waste Management Programme, adopted in 1998, particularly 3.4.1, “Building up and reconstruction of 37 regional landfills for disposal of environmentally friendly waste disposal action”. More specifically, they had to:
Such measures were expected to have a very significant impact on the preservation of the regional and cross-border natural resources (land, air and the Danube waters).
With respect to the citizens, this good practice leads to restoration of the areas occupied by the old disposal sites and better waste management service provision. It also improves the state of the natural resources on a regional scale, including the Danube waters. Such impacts will definitely result in better human health of the population in the area and the neighbouring Romanian territories.
Thus, since 2000, the municipalities started a demand-driven process of IMC. The implementation of cooperation has been improved by numerous political and legislative changes, which have taken different forms according to the different levels of the financial and institutional preparedness of the partners to cooperate.
The main area of municipal activity is solid waste management in full compliance with the EU and Bulgarian regulations, including the introduction of waste collection and transportation in the rural settlements, and joint waste disposal on the regional landfill.
Initially, IMC started out as consultations among three municipalities (Silistra, Alfatar, and Kainardja). The IMC then took the form of a ‘hand-shake’ to support the introduction of adequate municipal waste management systems in the rural settlements. Later, a municipal consortium (Silistra, Alfatar, and Kainardja) was established by local council resolutions. Each local council endorsed a framework contract signed by the relevant mayor. Then, in 2003, Silistra invited the municipalities of Dulovo, Sitovo, and Glavinitsa to join.
An Inter-Governmental Agreement was then signed between the six municipalities and the Ministry of Environment and Waters. It stipulates the rights and obligations of the parties. Article 16 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement states that the six partners would establish a non-governmental organization (NGO) to serve as a cooperation structure. This joint non-profit organization was registered and is the current legal form of the cooperation.
The members of the entity are the six municipalities, while the Managing Body includes their mayors. The Chairperson is Ivo Andonov, the Mayor of Silistra. The entity’s Statute regulates the operations of the legal body; for example, the Managing Body summons the General Assembly at least once a year. Important provisions of this document are described below.
To date, no staff have been appointed and all the duties have been performed by the Chairperson of the NGO, the Mayor Ivo Andonov, because there is no funding. The technical staff working at the landfill were hired by the Municipality of Silistra.
According to the Statute, the entity accumulates income from the following financial sources in order to achieve its objectives:
The established NGO has been operating for three years now irrespective of changing administrations. The municipalities have been unconditionally supporting the need to cooperate in order to introduce solid waste management in full compliance with EU and Bulgarian regulations. Recently, members of the NGO have started to discuss ways to increase accountability to citizens.
Since the EU regulations need to be adopted until 2010, it is the experts from the Ministry of Environment and Waters who monitor and assist the process of introduction of solid waste management. Furthermore, the waste disposal at the landfill has been regularly evaluated and monitored against standardized pollution indicators. When fully implemented, the regional facility will serve an area of 2,440 km2, with a population of 122,000 in six municipalities, including four towns and around 90 villages.
In the late 1990s, after surveying the landfills, the Ministry of Environment and Waters included the Silistra landfill in the serious risk category. It was decided to fund its reconstruction under the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-Accession (ISPA) Programme with EUR10,591,972. Recognizing the spillover effect of such an infrastructure project, the Ministry encouraged the three neighbouring municipalities, Silistra, Alfatar, and Kainardja, to cooperate in order to improve solid waste management on a wider scale.
In 2001–2002, as a first step, the local leaderships started consultations concerning the benefits of a partnership for the three parties. The cooperation was then agreed on with ‘hand-shake’ to support the sharing of expertise and the introduction of adequate municipal waste management systems in the rural settlements. Later, a municipal consortium (Silistra, Alfatar, and Kainardja) was established by local council resolutions. Each local council endorsed a framework contract signed by the relevant mayor.
Then in 2003, after the landfill reconstruction started, Silistra invited the municipalities of Dulovo, Sitovo and Glavinitsa to join, enabling them to provide environmentally friendly waste collection and disposal. This wider partnership acknowledged the need to cooperate in order to practically meet EU environmental standards.
At that time, there were no legal provisions on how IMC should be established. Thus, an Inter-Governmental Agreement was signed between the six municipalities, and the MoEW. It stipulated the rights and obligations of the parties. Five articles, from 15 to 19, establish the IMC.
Article 15 states the right of the local governments to take decisions on the future operations of the landfill. Such a decision should comply with national legislation and the ISPA financial memorandum.
Article 16 requires the municipalities to jointly decide on how to operate the facility:
Article 16 of the Inter-Governmental Agreement states that the six partners will establish an NGO to serve as a cooperation structure. The Court Registration of this organization thus reached the final stage of the cooperation.
As stated in Article 17, the main goal of the cooperation is to establish an integrated waste management system at the regional level. Article 18 asserts that the land of the new facility is owned by Silistra, which is the ‘investor’ under the Law on Spatial Development. Finally, Article 19, states that the municipalities shall begin a bidding procedure for choosing a landfill operator.
Tackling specific local issues and expectations, the six local governments had different political agendas. For example, at first, Alfatar, with a large number of elderly inhabitants, feared that the expected increase in the cost of waste management would financially burden its citizens and would eventually lead to general discontent. On the other hand, the Kainardja local government was ready to introduce the new service provision. However, since it lacked the necessary resources and expertise to provide environmental services, this authority needed partnership assistance to upgrade its competence and set an adequate waste fee. At that time, Silistra had to deal with the launch of the ISPA regional landfill project and secure the maintenance of a temporary dumpsite, which put considerable financial pressure on the local budget.
External expertise in drafting the status of the NGO was received from the Ministry of Environment and Waters. The experts from the Ministry also supported the partnership to launch joint activities for acquiring national funding for the introduction of waste collection and transportation in the villages.
Unfortunately, at that time, funding programmes considered only municipalities as eligible beneficiaries, and not NGOs. Thus, in contrast to expectations, it was not the newly established NGO that applied for funding, but each separate rural local authority, which was a step backward in the cooperation process. To make things worse, the 2005 national elections caused further changes, which significantly slowed down the process of acquiring national funding to upgrade waste collection in the villages by installing waste bins and buying equipment. This upgrading was finally done in 2008.
This is the reason that in 2006, when the reconstruction of the regional landfill was completed, the rural authorities had made only partial progress in implementing upgraded waste management measures and still lacked financial resources to partner with Silistra in the daily management of the new facility. These conditions forced Silistra City Council to set up a municipal company team to operate the landfill (City Council Act No. 990), which does not contradict the Inter-Governmental Agreement, since Silistra is the owner of the landfill and in this case, the local government operates under the Law on Municipal Property.
In spite of the above, the cooperation process has continued. The local governments coordinated their projects and exchanged technical expertise to further introduce waste collection and transportation measures in the settlements as well as a new waste management pricing system.
At initiation phase of the IMC, the cooperation was encouraged by the MoEW. An Inter-Governmental Agreement was signed between the six municipalities, and the MoEW.
Indeed, when the above enlisted local governments set up cooperation, they started from different levels of financial and institutional preparedness to comply with the environmental requirements. Nevertheless, their efforts led to the establishment of a NGO to jointly operate waste collection, transportation, disposal and management of the regional landfill. This required substantial financial back-up, but at that time, the municipal villages even lacked proper waste bins (containers) and transportation vehicles. Thus, the five rural municipalities needed to restructure their budgets and earmark finances for the installation of waste bins and provision of vehicles. Furthermore, they had to convince the population to pay increased waste fees to cover the incurred expenses. Having different political agendas, the local officials were reluctant to levy waste fees. Thus, the process of matching resources among the municipalities took longer than expected. Having already jointly developed their Municipal Environmental Programmes, the partners decided to apply for funding of the introduction of waste bins and vehicles for the transportation of waste.
The main success factors were:
The direct benefits are:
Waste is electronically weighed on arrival, which results in a reduction of the municipal budget allocations for landfill management. Unfortunately, there is no specific information on how much was saved. The landfill consists of four waste storage cells, three of which are in use, while the fourth will be opened in approximately 20 years, when the other three are filled up.
In addition, pilot research was launched to explore the possibilities of introducing a waste separation system on the landfill. A Czech company is planning to test its separation technology initially on 3,000 tonnes and to share professional experience.
The introduction of solid waste management systems, in accordance with the EU environmental regulations inevitably causes an increase in municipal costs for the rural municipalities. Now they face the need to levy appropriate waste fees to meet expenses.
The major shortcomings are as follows:
The current cooperation plans focus primarily on joining efforts for introducing separate waste collection and transportation as well as joint management of the landfill. These are responsibilities and tasks which are to be the main priorities for some years ahead.
There are no expectations for other municipalities to joint the partnership since the location of the regional landfill is suitable for disposal only for the current members. There are no plans to convert to another legal form of cooperation.
Joint waste disposal and management of regional landfills has become a major issue in Bulgaria. Even a quick Internet survey provides information on a number of municipal plans to cooperatively build and operate such a modern facility in compliance with national legislation and EU Environmental Directives. For example, there are plans to develop a regional landfill in Vidin District to serve 11 municipalities. Since most of the Vidin communities share similar characteristics with municipalities of the Silistra area, professional communication between them will inevitably save efforts when establishing cooperation. If topics of common interest are openly discussed, the partnership process might be expedited and take better advantage of the legislation provisions and EU funding.
Based on the learned lessons, such discussions might include:
The Central Government should secure national funding for the installation of waste bins and waste transportation for those rural settlements that are to be served by the regional landfill. As concerns the Association of Municipalities, it should support the replication of good practices by enhancing experience-sharing among the municipalities.
A partnership among the management teams of the regional landfills in Silistra, Rousse and Montana has been initiated. The main goal of the joint actions is to share expertise and experiences in integrated waste management, improved quality of the local services and strict compliance with the EU Directive on Waste.
The information about this practice was collected and presented by Rossitsa Raycheva.