Waste proposals in Istria Sideline Recycling and the Public

1 October, 2008.  Croatia.  Protests against a EUR 40 million waste management centre planned for development in the Croatian tourist hotspot of Istria have been taking place in Zagreb. The justifications for the project remain unclear particularly in view of the fact that local recycling targets are set at a regrettably low rate of 23% by 2015 and that the center's capacity is 50 percent higher than needed, according to the Croatian Waste Management Plan. The proposed site for the project is one kilometre from the sea and three kilometres from the ancient city of Pula.

The waste management centre is supposed to be partially financed by the EU funds (still not approved) and a EUR 15 million loan is being sought from the  European Bank for Reconstruction and Development [http://www.ebrd.com/projects/psd/psd2008/37536.htm ], which has now changed the project's board date for a second time until July 2009. Read more about the local activists' campaign here.

On September 24, a citizens initiative from Medulin municipality, in cooperation with the Zelena Istra NGO, organised a protest against the planned Waste management centre (WMC) on the south of the Istria peninsula near Medulin Municipality. A group of 40 activists gathered in front of the Ministry of Environment in Zagreb and later, after being accepted by minister Marina Matulovic-Dropulic, headed for the European Commission building where Oskar Benedikt, head of the political, economy and trade department, met the protesters' delegation.

The protest was organised nine months after the public participation procedure organised for the WMC's environmental impact assessment was  conducted. No replies to comments made about the EIA were received even though the project was accepted just over a month ago.

The planned Istrian regional WMC's technology would process waste into fuel, to be burnt afterwards in cement kilns. In order to ensure high fuel production rates, the local recycling targets are set pitifully low and the capacity is 50 percent higher than is needed, according to the Croatian Waste Management Plan.

This major waste installation is to be built only one kilometre away from homes and tourist facilities in the seacoast municipality of Medulin. The local initiative discovered that the WMC was included in Spatial planning documents in 2002, three years before the national waste management strategy described waste management centers, their technology and capacities for the first time. Thus it appears that the the proper spatial planning public participation procedure was never organised for this location.

Commenting on the outcomes of their direct approach to dialogue with decision-makers, Milena Radosevic from Zelena Istra commented after the protests: "Our meeting with Minister Matulovic-Dropulic was satisfactory as the minister promised that an alternative location would be examined. Mr Benedikt recognised that this intention from the Ministry of environment to look for an alternative location is a new moment for financing this project from the pre-accession funds 2007-2009."

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