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Silistra District regional landfill

From Municipal Cooperation

Silistra District regional landfill
Service Areas: Solid Waste Management
Country: Bulgaria
Municipalities: Silistra, Alfatar, Kainardja, Sitovo, Glavinitsa, Dulovo
Contact persons: Teodor Velikov, Iordan Efremov
Legal form: Commercial company
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Coordinates: 44° 7' 2" N, 27° 15' 39" E
Photo 1 Good Practice Form Silistra-FINA.jpg
Photo 2 Good Practice Form Silistra-FINA.jpg
Photo 3 Good Practice Form Silistra-FINA.jpg

Description of the problem/need for IMC

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:

  • planning, organization and control of the transportation and treatment of solid waste;
  • provision of waste containers and bins;
  • cleaning of areas set aside for public use;
  • prevention of dumping of illegal waste in illegal dump sites;
  • selection of the dump site and construction, maintenance, operation, closure and monitoring of landfills.

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:

  • Framework Directive on Waste 75/442 amended by EC Directive 91/556;
  • EC Directive on Hazardous Waste 91/689;
  • EC Directive on Landfill of Waste 1999/31.

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:

  • close all unregistered landfill sites by 2010;
  • introduce a financially sound and organizationally efficient waste management system, including separate collection for agricultural waste, manure and ash;
  • jointly use a common landfill that complies with the EU Directive on Waste.

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.

Description of the IMC practice

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:

  • membership fees, collected from the member-municipalities, which, according to the Statute, is 5 stotinki per inhabitant (EUR0.025);
  • fees for developing project applications for different beneficiaries;
  • financing from EU-funded projects to benefit the member municipalities;
  • fees from consultation services on developing project applications and project cycle management.

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.

Establishment of the IMC practice

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:

  • setting up a joint structure in charge of landfill exploitation;
  • financing the functioning of the structure;
  • securing the minimum garbage quantity to generate sufficient revenue for the landfill operation.

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:

  • a clear and shared vision for establishing regional cooperation for better waste management;
  • a roster of reliable municipal and governmental experts to back up the funding efforts;
  • secured funding for the construction of the regional landfill under the ISPA programme. The necessary waste collection vehicles and equipment, kept on the site, are also provided by the ISPA programme;
  • professional management of the regional landfill.

Benefits and shortcoming of the IMC practice

Benefits

The direct benefits are:

  • Professionally managed regional landfill in compliance with the EU Directives – Domestic and construction waste is collected in the municipalities of Silistra District, then transported to the landfill, deposited there and processed by applying modern technologies. The leachate, caused by precipitation percolating through deposited waste, is pumped, purified in the wastewater treatment plant on the site and discharged into the Danube River. At the same time, the landfill gas (methane), produced from chemical reactions and microbes acting on the waste, is captured and rendered harmless in a gas burner. This is how underground waters, air and land are kept clean.

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.

  • Cleaner environment and improved health conditions – This good practice enhanced the restoration of the areas occupied by the old disposal sites. A few unregulated dumpsites have already been closed and re-cultivated, which diminished the pollution of the regional natural resources and the Danube waters. Such impacts will also result in improved human health of the population in the area, including the neighbouring Romanian territories.
  • Upgrading of municipal waste management services – The main objective of the IMC is to assist the six municipalities in their solid waste management in full compliance with EU Environmental Directives and the Bulgarian regulations, and thus avoid potential environmental damage from landfills. Three municipalities have jointly started the introduction of separate waste collection. They installed the necessary colourful waste bins and launched public awareness events.
  • Joint public awareness events – The landfill management team initiated a series of public awareness events to change local people’s attitude towards waste generation and disposal. One these public gathering is the annual Festival of Garbage Art, which attracts artists and visitors from the entire Danube region, including neighbouring Romanian settlements. The main goal of these initiatives is to encourage joint municipal actions to improve waste management systems.

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.


Shortcomings

The major shortcomings are as follows:

  • Inadequate organization - The establishment of an Inter-municipal NGO to deal with the public services provision was the only possible form of partnership in 2003–2004. Currently, there are other legislative provisions in the Law of Local Government and Local Administration, which could better support cooperation efforts and capacity. Proper cooperative arrangements for public service provision will allow local governments to upgrade their cooperation, retain their institutional autonomy and save resources.


  • Insufficient cooperation in supra-local planning– Each local government make all important decisions, and uses them as a reference point to carry out its own environmental policy. The traditional way of planning and performing public tasks cannot properly address supra-local projects.


  • Deficit in funding waste management' - 'The municipalities are still reluctant to set the solid waste fee at a full cost-recovery level and continue to subsidize waste management. Such practice leads to cross-subsidization between local public services: for example, in order to provide solid waste management according to the standards set, municipalities take away resources from other services. This harms service users.

Future plans for the development of the IMC practice

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.

Main lessons learned on how to establish IMC and make it a success

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:

  • applicable financing models for municipal waste management based on taxes, charges and volume-based rates;
  • securing of municipal funding to match EU funding for the construction of the landfill and provision of transportation vehicles;
  • gaining of public support for the new management system.

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.

Readiness to support other municipalities to establish IMC

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.

Acknowledgment

The information about this practice was collected and presented by Rossitsa Raycheva.