Borislav Sandov leaves for Brussels on Monday to save the Environment program

At least BGN 500 million are at risk, which we will not be able to use for investments in water, air, waste and biodiversity

Climate / Bulgaria
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Raya Lecheva

More than BGN 500 million are at risk because they will not be able to be used under the Operational Program "Environment" 2014-2020, said Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment and Water Borislav Sandov. He left for Brussels on Monday with Deputy Minister in charge of the Water Sector Maria Achkova to save the Environment Program in the current programming period and defend planned heating and electric vehicle measures for the next period.

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Projects under the current operational program are due to be completed by 2023, but so far it has 50% disbursed, the lowest level in the EU, according to a hearing of the governing body a few weeks ago in the parliamentary environment committee.

The expectations are that we will be able to convince Brussels to transfer the implementation of some of the projects for the next programming period, etc. phasing. Half of the funds, or about BGN 265 million, are due to the delay of five water projects. They will be moved for funding under the new operational program, the Minister of Ecology assured journalists a few days ago. The delay in the procedures of the projects and the public procurements are the reason for the delay and such an example is the project of Dobrich, where very soon the Water and Sewerage Company of Dobrich acquired the treatment facility from the Albena complex. The other major project that will not be implemented within this programming period is the BGN 180 million waste incineration plant in Sofia. Moreover, after the last two decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) - for the supervision and selection of a contractor, the procedure is returned by the Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC).

The project in practice cannot be realized until 2023. If the project is not implemented, we will look for an option to direct the funds to other projects in Sofia, so as not to lose funds. If Sofia Municipality does not give up on its own, we will have to take other actions, Sandov commented. But the question of what will happen to Sofia's waste, with the RDF fuel fraction, which cannot be recycled, must also be resolved. It is possible that the temporary RDF fuel will be transported to the cement plants as it is so far and this decision will temporarily become permanent. It is also possible to look for another operator to use this resource or to look for export options, Sandov said.

In Brussels, we are defending measures to replace heating appliances and purchase electric cars

The second solution for the plant is to move the installation to another location, but this cannot happen during this programming period. Under the new program, such proposals will not be funded. Sofia's project was the last project the EC agreed to fund, as waste incineration projects will not receive funding from the new programming period. In the EU, the opposite trend is already observed, their gradual decommissioning.

Part of the funds, in order not to be lost, will be directed to afforestation measures, strengthening dams and dealing with landslides, said Borislav Sandov.

Bulgaria must also defend BGN 800 million in Brussels under the new program for the period 2021-2027. They are related to the planned measures for the replacement of heating appliances and the purchase of electric vehicles. According to the EC, these measures should have an additional effect for the benefit of the environment, the Commission wants additional guarantees that they will really affect the goals of reducing air pollution, said Sandov.

The program should include the construction of solar panels on the roofs of entire neighborhoods

Therefore, various options are being considered for additional proposals that will have a positive effect on the environment, the most possible of which is to expand the measure with the possibility of installing solar and photovoltaic panels in people's homes or entire neighborhoods, Sandov explained. This will be one of the possibilities along with the replacement of heating appliances, which are most often replaced by coal and wood with pellet stoves and air conditioners, and the measure can be extended with the possibility of installing photovoltaic panels on the roofs, the minister explained.

Another possibility is the funds to go to the expropriation of property. But there are several problems with this, firstly the regional governors responsible for these procedures have to become beneficiaries of the program and secondly it is more likely to happen for Natura 2000 parks. In Sofia this is unlikely because there are no such territories, but in other cities where the parks are private but are in Natura 2000 it is quite possible, Sandov said. These are options that are yet to be discussed with the EC.

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