EDEN center’s position: incinerating waste or not?
Our Albanian member organisation EDEN center has been active for a year in a government project which involves the construction of a waste incinerator in Tirana, the capital of Albania. Waste is one of the major environmental problems in Albania and immediate action is needed to improve the situation. The question is, however, if the building of the third Albanian incinerator will really lead to an improvement in solving the waste-problem.
There are several issues on a societal and governmental level which make solving the waste problem a challenge in Albania. First, people do not have the appropriate education for separate waste collection. Second, the government is encouraging immediate solutions that are not sustainable in time. Third, there is a lack of transparency. Fourth, there is no organized sharing of responsibilities between the government bodies. Last and most important challenge is a lack of interest and involvement from the general public for project and plans of the government, in this case for the incinerator.
Young volunteers helped consulting citizens
The youth involvement in their projects is central for EDEN center. In this case, a group of 15 young volunteers of EDEN center were directly involved for this project by getting opinions of the citizens living nearby the area where the incinerator will be located. The volunteers helped to conduct a structured questionnaire for the citizens of the areas and held field interviews with the local citizens in order to collect their opinions.
One of the volunteers that gave inputs on the questionnaire was EDEN center’s EVS volunteer Erona Tasholli, from Germany. It was interesting for her to see the contrast between Germany, a well-developed country where citizens’ participation is important and common, and the Albanian context of citizen participation. For example, one of the results of the questionnaire was that not all citizens are willing to take part in public hearings and other participatory events. This can be explained by a lack of time due to struggles in their personal lives and the detachment from the decisions of the government.
Whishes of the citizens
Other findings were that the citizens are concerned about their health, environmental pollution and the future of their children. Nearly half of the consulted citizens does not think the incinerator will increase the level of recycling in the city, and that there are other methods that need to be considered. In general, they identified a lack of information about the operations of the incinerator and its impact on human and environmental health, which led to undecided positions on the project.
The opinions of more than 300 people that were inquired for the project, as well as a detailed analysis from experts of the national legislation of waste and the legislation for public participation, and a feasibility study of the project and concession contract are included in the report “Incineration of waste as a local approach” (Albanian language).
Roundtables with stakeholders
The construction of the incinerator not only concerns Tirana, the local area where the incinerator will be built, but the whole of Albania. Because of this, different roundtables with a variety of stakeholders took place in addition to the questionnaires and field interviews.
Outcomes of the project: opposition of the concession contract
In contrast to other European countries where waste incinerators were accepted after citizen participation, several stakeholders in Albania opposed the construction. Different arguments for this opposition were raised during the roundtables with the environmental NGOs, the recycling companies and academia:
- First, the decision to burn urban waste was a result of a top-down decision-making process, in the absence of transparency and contrary to the national and European laws on urban waste management.
- Second, there was a lack of studies and arguments that support the decision
- Third, the process was not transparent and in compliance with legal obligations
- Fourth, the feasibility study does not study into detail the social, economic and environmental impacts and benefits of the project
- Fifth, the citizen consultation mentioned above showed that there was a lack of information on the process.
These arguments are further explained in a position paper supported by 20 environmental and recycling organizations in Albania:
“The stance of environmental and recycling organizations on the establishment of the incinerator in the south and east of the existing dump site in Sharrë, Tirana”(English version).
The position paper was directed to the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy and Tirana Municipality, and presented to the media on the 6th of February 2019.
For further details and suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact EDEN centre at firstname.lastname@example.org.
EDEN center wants to thank the citizens that have given their sincere opinion for the project; EDEN center’s volunteers which were always ready to be involved and to be active for environmental issues.
The project was part of “To give voice to citizens – stimulate public environmental participation in Tirana”, financially supported by LevizAlbania.
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