Minister Sandov met with Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova

19 Jan, 2022 | 11:26

At a working meeting, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Environment and Water Borislav Sandov and Sofia Mayor Yordanka Fandakova agreed that joint efforts and initiatives are needed to improve air quality in Sofia.


Minister Sandov noted that the leadership of the Ministry of Environment and Water has inherited infringement procedures with the European Commission (EC), and in order to terminate some of them, action is needed by municipalities. Urgent measures to improve air quality were discussed in view of the infringement procedure against Bulgaria in front of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.


Sofia Municipality is implementing two programs for free replacement of solid fuel heaters. One is funded by the Operational Program “Environment 2014-2020” (OPE) and the other - by the “Life” program. According to OPE, about 1000 household heaters on wood and coal have been replaced in the last 4 months, contracts signed for replacement with households amount to over 5500, and new applications by citizens exceed 1400. These results were reported by the mayor of Sofia. Citizens can currently still apply for these programs.


Minister Sandov pointed out that for the first time national funding in the amount of 47 million BGN is being provided for the creation of a national mechanism for investments in air quality improvement. Minister Sandov’s vision is that “by improving air quality, we provide a more favorable living environment and save lives.” Sofia Municipality representatives expressed readiness to apply in 2022/2023 with projects for improvement of 134 so-called “muddy points” in inter-block spaces, for replacement of heating installations on solid or diesel fuel in schools and kindergartens, as well as for installation of solar systems on municipal buildings’ rooftops.


 “Sofia is the city most ready to introduce low-emission zones,” said Desislava Bileva, deputy mayor for ecology at Sofia Municipality. Two zones have been prepared (center and wide center) and the ordinance for regulation of the movement of cars in these zones within the periods exceeding the norms for particulate matter is currently drafted.


Minister Sandov said that opportunities were being explored to provide large storage areas for firewood intended for sale. The initiative is related to the requirement to use dry wood for heating, which significantly reduces fine dust particles that are released during the burning process.


Minister Sandov stressed that separate waste collection is extremely important and is a key part of the new MOEW policy, which will be implemented in the field of waste management at the national level, especially in increasing the volume and improving the quality of separately collected waste. In this regard, the Minister recommended that the Municipality takes any possible measures in the short term, especially in the direction of expanding and improving the opportunities for separate waste collection and developing a new mechanism with additional incentives for citizens. “Sofia Municipality is ready to support various pilot projects that will increase the percentage of separate waste collection,” said Mayor Fandakova in response.


Challenges related to the Sofia Municipality project for waste management were also discussed, given the recent decisions by the court on procedural issues to finalize this project.


Minister Sandov informed the mayor that the OPE has completed the evaluation of the project proposal submitted in August 2021 for the construction of water supply and sewerage infrastructure in the neighborhoods “Benkovski”, “Dragalevtsi”, “Krastova Vada – East”, “Obelya”, “Simeonovo”, and “Suhodol”, as well as for the agglomerations of “Novi Iskar” and “Bankya”. A draft grant agreement is already being prepared and can be signed as early as this month. Sofia Municipality is implementing a project for construction of sewerage in the listed neighborhoods, as well as for retrofitting the WWTP-Kubratovo, in the total amount of 140 million BGN, of which 94 million BGN are financed by OPE 2014-2020 with an implementation deadline in December 2023.