NGOs dispute use of EU funds for incineration

Seventy-four Non Governmental Organisations have complained to European Union Commissioners over a pre-accession fund being used to fund the incineration of hazardous waste in Bulgaria.

The NGOs, including CEE Bankwatch Network, which monitors financial institutions’ activities, and Friends of the Earth Europe, contend that the European Union’s ISPA programme, the pre-accession fund for the environment and transport sectors, has a Bulgarian incineration project for hazardous waste as an applicant. The organisations have written an open letter to the Director of the ISPA programme and the Environment, Enlargement and Regional Policy Commissioners demanding a change in the objectives and policy of financing projects in the area of waste management, following revelations about the project to construct a National

Centre for Hazardous Waste Treatment in Bulgaria.

The NGOs, supported by local residents criticise the proposed incineration project for giving priority to waste incineration, the minimal amount of public participation in the projects pursued up until now, under the

feasibility study financed by the EU’s PHARE programme and because studies on the health risk and possible dioxin contamination have not been conducted in Bulgaria. The construction of a waste incineration plant – without a well-developed infrastructure of municipal services and adequate systems of hazardous waste monitoring – can only contribute to the abandonment of actions aimed at waste reduction at the source, while hampering proper development of services connected with the recovery of secondary raw materials, the NGOs contend. Moreover, waste incineration technologies will not contribute to environmental improvement, as they are a big source of emissions of persistent organic pollutants and other toxic substances, the NGOS say (see related story).

The signatories of the letter demand that the ISPA programme change its policy objectives in the area of waste management in Bulgaria, as well as in other EU candidate countries which may apply with similar projects aimed at preventing waste generation at source and using waste treatment technologies which are environmentally safe alternatives to incineration. Ultimately, the participation of local communities and non-governmental organisations at all stages of project planning and implementation has to be a precondition for ISPA funds allocation, the groups say.

“Monitoring the pre-accession funds in 8 applicant countries, we can see over and over that the current set up of the EU aid for accession is not at all promoting environmentally sustainable solutions, even under the ISPA, which deals with environment itself,” commented Magda Stoczkiewicz, Accession Project Co-ordinator of CEE Bankwatch Network. “The current model for these countries is a trap, a status quo that leaves little room to accommodate future EU developments acknowledged in the Sixth Environmental Action Programme (see related story) or the EU Strategy for Sustainable Development (see related story).

“We consider the project defective and it should be revised to ensure the healthy and environmentally sustainable treatment and disposal of hazardous waste in Bulgaria,” said Anelia Stefanova from the Bulgarian NGO, Za Zemiata. “In Bulgaria there are still many opportunities that need to be acted upon for changing production and energy generation processes so that they are cleaner and result in less waste. This is what we need the EU money for, not to build an incinerator plant.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie