Locally, Giurgiu and Ruse reject the incinerator project in the Romanian town

Interview on Bulgarian National Radio after the Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water issued a position on the incinerator project in Giurgiu

Iliya Valkov, Bulgarian National Radio, 11 September 2023

The host of the morning block of the Bulgarian National Radio’s “Horizon” programme “Before all”, Ilia Valkov interviewed Vladimir Mitev about the current state of play with the proposed construction of an incinerator for animal and medical waste in Giurgiu:

– what are the reasons of the protesters in Giurgiu and Ruse;

– what is the position of local institutions in the two cities;

– what happens in the near future (protest on 16 September 2023 in Giurgiu).

The Bulgarian Ministry of Environment and Water asked the Romanian authorities to let it get involved in the environmental assessment of the project. The main reason is the danger of air pollution. The citizens of Ruse have been living in a toxic environment for years, and this project has reignited protests. Our interviewer is Vladimir Mitev, a journalist with the Romanian section of Radio Bulgaria. Hello!


Can you tell us what triggered the protests? The residents of Ruse and the Romanian city of Giurgiu took to the streets, unhappy with what was happening there.

This summer, an opinion was sought from the Bulgarian side, including from the public in Ruse, on this incinerator project. This project has awakened the old sensitivities of the inhabitants of Ruse and of Giurgiu. Perhaps our listeners know that in the 1980s, there was a lot of pollution in this area because of a chemical plant that was located in Giurgiu. In 1992, it completely ceased its activity. But, in any case, it remained a trauma in the minds of the people of Ruse that there was air pollution coming from Giurgiu, which led to the depopulation of Ruse, health problems and so on.

In this case, it is somewhat interesting that the plan for an incinerator for animal and medical waste, which is to be built, is to be built on the very site of this former chemical plant. I think this is one of the reasons why people in this area are so sensitive. And maybe there are many other reasons that we’ll touch on during the conversation.

What might those reasons be? From what I’ve seen and from the videos that have been shared on social media, there is an initiative committee in Giurgiu and people in the area, even representatives of the municipal council there, who are unhappy about the construction of this incinerator. They talk about the fact that the project is unjustified and that the people of Giurgiu cannot be convinced of the benefits of this incinerator.

To quote the organiser of the protest in Giurgiu, Ciprian Alexandru, he says that one of the questions that has not been answered for him so far is what exactly will be the quantities of polluting gases that will be released. He says he is aware of this assessment, which was commissioned by the company building the incinerator itself, and it doesn’t specify the quantities, so he would like to see exactly what the amount of pollution is, in order to make a comparison with other similar facilities and see if it would be cleaner or not.

There is indeed some resistance to this project in Giurgiu. I was at the protest there on 1 September 2023.  There were maybe 25-30 people there. It was during working hours. There was a statement by the president of the County Council, Dumitru Beianu, who said (and this is also on social media, anyone can see it) that the benefits of this project are insignificant compared to the possible problems that may arise for the citizens of Giurgiu. In addition, a decision has been taken at the local level that should stop this project if the decision remains in force. This is because the Giurgiu Local Council, which is the council of the municipality of Giurgiu, has decided that such projects should be at a greater distance from the city than currently prepared. But the people of Giurgiu are not sure that this will work, because the project has the necessary health and environmental approvals, from what I understand from the people I speak to. What could be done locally as an attempt to put the brakes on could be challenged in court.

Dumitru Beianu, the president of the county council Giurgiu speaks (subtitles in English)
Ciprian Alexandru, the organizer of the protest of 1 September 2023 in Giurgiu speaks (subtitles in English)

An initiative committee has also been set up in Ruse, or at least at the moment there is a unit of disgruntled citizens who are getting together and expressing their opposition to the construction of this incinerator. As far as I understand, over 1 600 signatures have been collected. What are the intentions of the residents? There have even been serious requests to block the bridge over the Danube, although it is under repair, so traffic is difficult even now.

In terms of signatures, there is even talk of 1700-1800 signatures. At the moment I do not hear any new requests for protests. It seems that we are waiting to see what will be the response from the Romanian side to what you reported as the position of the Ministry of Environment and Water. But in Ruse, yes, indeed, when the sensitivity is higher, there are cases where cars block the bridge over the Danube and this is, of course, a national transport problem.

And how does the municipality of Ruse react? Is there any position of the local authority? By the way, elections are coming up and it is very likely that this bio-waste incinerator in Giurgiu will enter the campaign as an issue.

All local institutions are against this project. And, of course, as we get closer to the election campaign, you can see on social media some confrontations between different political forces or their leaders about who does less and who does more to stop the project. I think this should not surprise us.

OK, let’s summarize what follows as procedures. We have seen and heard that there are serious intentions to protest, but from now on what should happen? At least according to the official information we have.

I think we will have to see whether this request for a transboundary environmental impact assessment will be accepted and what will be the position of the Romanian national institutions in general. I think this is the important thing in this case, because locally there seems to be resistance to this project. I quote Ciprian Alexandru again, who says that the problem can be solved if the Romanian Ministry of Health simply amends an order of its own from earlier this year, which actually allowed this project to go ahead. It is about the distance such an incinerator can be located from the locality. So far, we have not seen a position from the Ministry of Health in Romania, and various people I have spoken to are kind of waiting and wondering why such a position is not taken at national level. What I do know is that on 16 September 2023 there will be another protest in Giurgiu and I know that there is a signature collection in Giurgiu against the project. So the issue remains open, as they say in the press, and will have to be well monitored.

Thank you very much for this interview. Vladimir Mitev, journalist at the Romanian section of Radio Bulgaria.

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