Friday, 19 March 2010

Rural Bulgaria and Romania

Women in Europe for a Common Future – a truly excellent organization − invited me to a 1-day roundtable discussion in Sofia on how to reach sustainable and cost-effective sanitation and wastewater collection and treatment in rural areas in Bulgaria and Romania – especially in small towns of up to 10,000 p.e. Both Bulgaria and Romania (and the other new EU Member States) have to meet their obligations under the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive during the next few years.

Rural sanitation is poor in many parts of Eastern Europe, a heritage of decades of communist neglect. So it’s good that there are organizations like WECF working with local NGOs to do something sensible in this important area. What did I talk about? Simplified sewerage and wastewater treatment in waste stabilization ponds, of course. To produce an effluent that complies with the UWWTD (≤25 mg filtered BOD/l and ≤150 mg suspended solids/l – see the footnote to Table 1 on page 12 of the Directive), all you need is a single, correctly designed, facultative pond.

Getting “new” solutions adopted in these countries can be bureaucratically complicated. There were several senior civil servants from various ministries in Bulgaria and Romania present at the roundtable discussion, but I got the impression that they were just ‘stonewalling’. Clearly they need a big shove from their political masters. What’s required to get the ball rolling is a really good, and preferably charismatic, elected politician to act as a sanitation champion − if the civil servants are left to their own devices, there won’t be much progress in the immediate future.

PS (26 March): there's a report on the Sofia meeting here.