Minister Julian Popov's “Urban Rivers” Initiative starts from Sofia

24 Feb, 2024 | 11:27

Representatives of institutions, scientific and civil society organizations join forces to restore rivers to good health

"We will develop an action plan for the ecological restoration of urban rivers, starting with focusing on Sofia's rivers." This was announced yesterday by the Minister of Environment and Water Julian Popov when he opened a meeting with stakeholders to launch the initiative for the greening of urban rivers.

He explained that with the “Urban Rivers” initiative, the Ministry of Environment and Water is seeking opportunities and partnerships with local authorities and public organizations to implement projects for the sustainable use of the ecosystem services associated with urban rivers and their potential for improving the urban environment.

"Sofia Municipality is seriously committed to the idea of greening the rivers in Sofia", confirmed in response Nadezhda Bobcheva, Deputy Mayor for Green System, Ecology and Land Use. She said that a project for a riverside park in the Manastirski Livadi - East district is already developed and there are ideas for other areas to become riverside parks.

During the discussion, Minister Popov said that together with experts and inspectors he has already toured several rivers in Sofia to investigate the causes for the most polluted areas. "In Sofia we are doing extensive monitoring of the main rivers, which shows that the Perlovska River is clean up to the point of the confluence of the Boyanskaya River into it," said Deputy Minister Petar Dimitrov. Lacking sewerage systems in the southern neighborhoods of the city, direct discharges by consumers and the mixed sewerage system are the main causes of river pollution in the capital, confirmed Deputy Executive Director of the Sofia water supply and sewerage company “Sofiyska Voda”  Stanislav Stanev.

The results of the MOEW inspections that are still ongoing will be summarized in a report, which will be the basis for outlining possible measures to improve the environmental status of the rivers.

The participants in the discussion agreed that the action plan for each river should highlight potential opportunities for building parks and recreation areas, and that preventive measures should be taken along dangerous stretches against flooding during rains and rising river levels.

"Let's designate green flag stretches along the rivers and work towards greening them. Concrete riverbed stretches cannot ensure self-cleaning of the river, but we can build an environment after these stretches where natural processes can develop," suggested Milena Pavlova from the Institute of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Research at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences. Ivona Grozeva from the Ministry of Environment and Water reminded that urban rivers are part of the solutions to counteract extreme events, such as heat waves and torrential rains associated with climate change.

Martin Yankov from The Collective Foundation, organizer of the Rivers of the City Festival in 7 cities, welcomed Minister Popov's initiative and supported the idea to create a sustainable vision for the improvement of urban rivers. In response, Minister Julian Popov confirmed that several other mayors of major cities have approached him with the desire to join the initiative, so the MOEW will prepare guidelines for work.

"There are more meetings to come, to define clear objectives and a structured agenda we need coordination, data collection and aggregation, sharing information, creating databases on rivers and mapping them. The Environment Executive Agency and the National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology will also be involved in the process. Everyone around this table, we have tools for control and we must use them," Minister Popov said in conclusion.

The Deputy Minister of Regional Development Nikolay Naydenov, arch. Elitsa Panayotova from the Sofia Municipality's “Green Sofia” project, Denitsa Petrova from “Greenpeace”, and Ivo Anev, an urban activist from the “Smisal” club also participated in the meeting.