The city of Durres, with about 292 thousand inhabitants is at risk of an environmental catastrophe if the government doesn’t provide a financial solution for the management of waste after the closing of the Porto Romano landfill. Declaring an environmental emergency, in a city that produces over 75 thousand tons of waste in a year, a temporary solution was found by depositing garbage in the landfill of Sharra until the 15th of July. The municipality of Durres, which can’t even provide for the wages of employees responsible for disposal of the waste, due to the low profits from the cleaning tax, has asked the government to cover the total financial cost for the management of waste for the next 10 years. Meanwhile, in the regional plan for the management of waste 2010-2030, this municipality had planned a fivefold increase of the cleaning tax, to afford the situation.
The new tourist season, found Durres again this year, already wiped out by two consecutive disasters, the earthquake and the pandemic, in a miserable state, with piles of garbage thrown along the streets. In other neighborhoods it was reported of garbage burning, adding more to the pollution of a city which is trying to recover after two very difficult years. The problem of waste in the municipality of Durrës is an old story, which has been going on since the time they were deposited in Porto Romano, but it resurfaced fiercely, after the decision to close the controversial landfill in the beginning of January 2020.
In the June of 2020, a state of environmental emergency was declared by Durrës Municipal Council when the Porto Romano landfill was closed down, meanwhile the disposal of waste in Manza was fiercely opposed by the residents of the area, therefore the temporary solution was to dispose the waste in the Sharra landfill in Tirana. The situation was repeated again the next year, which forced the mayor to declare in June 28th that the solution for the waste management was expected from the central government, due to lack of funds of the local authorities.
“For about a year we have deposited in Sharra’s Landfill with no contractual obligations and tax by the institution, meanwhile in the middle of the month we have made a request to the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Finances, the national Sewage Agency as well as the Ministry of Tourism and Environment in order to finalize this request approved by the Municipal Council, and to finance for the next 10 years the entry tariffs in the Municipality of Durres. In order to overcome this obstacle and I hope it is considered a priority by the Albanian government in order to be closed quickly, and that it will be solved in a short time span.”- said the Mayor Emiriana Sako.
Upon a request for further information, representatives of the Landfill of Sharra officially confirmed to Faktoje, that up until July 15th that they would accept with zero costs the disposal of wastes by the Municipality of Durrës, but they didn’t give a clear answer if they would continue offering this service beyond this date and at what cost.
Response of the company “Integrate Energy BV SPV”
Official request for information directed to the Municipality of Durrës
The Municipality of Durres doesn’t have financial resources to cover the salaries of the cleaning staff, waste management in the hands of the government
Through an official information request, Faktoje received from the Municipality of Durrës, the document by which it requested from the Government full subsidy of the entry tariff for10 years, based on the long-term budget plan for waste management, just like Mayor Sako admitted.
Screenshot of the ruling by the Municipal Council of Durrës, date 10.06.2021
But, is the government willing to approve the full subsidization for the treatment of waste of this municipality for a decade?
As answer to this question, sent via an official information request by Faktoje, the prime ministry sent us the DCM dated 15 of July, the day of the expiration of the deal between the Sharra Landfill and the Municipality.
Official request for information sent to the government
Screenshot from the decision of the financial support of waste management in the Municipality of Durres.
According to this decision, if the financial effects of the solution cannot be addressed by the budget of the Municipality of Durres, then the municipality needs to address the ministry responsible for the finances, with the purpose of covering the difference of the given financial effects.
The Municipality of Durres doesn’t have the financial resources to handle the management of waste
Faktoje reviewed the budget of the Municipality of Durrës, published on their official web page where it resulted that this institution, especially after the earthquake and the pandemic, cannot even cover the expenses for territorial cleaning and waste collection.
Screenshot from the budget of Municipality Durrës for year 2021
Based on the report of the Municipality for the approval of the options for waste management in Durrës, according to scenarios of integrated urban waste management in the territory of the Municipality it is emphasized that its budget cannot afford the costs of waste management.
Screenshot from the budget relation through the years (2017-2013)
Financial experts, explain that the tax that the Municipality of Durrës collects for the cleaning and management of waste cannot cover the expenses for this function for many years now. In fact, the difference is covered by other funds of the municipality, which could be used for other investments, such as education etc.
“The financial scheme for the waste management in the Municipality of Durrës is not stable. The revenues from the cleaning tax do not cover the yearly expenses for the management of waste. Capital investments, like increased depository capacity for waste management have been very low over the past years. During 2020, the year of the pandemic, not only was the value planned on the budget from the cleaning tariff of 256 million ALL not realized, but the actual value was 113 million ALL (or 44% realized) and even lower than the previous years.
In 2019, 170 million ALL were raised as earnings by the cleaning tax that covered 46% of waste management expenses. Therefore, in 2020 this indicator was worse because only 29% of costs were covered. In 2021 expenses for the management of waste were budgeted at the amount of 418 millionALL or 14% of the total budget of the Municipality of Durrës.”-says financial expert Azmi Stringa.
According to the financial expert, extra funds are required to solve this problem, because the largest part of the 418 million ALL budget are fixed costs of the Municipality of Durrës including: staff salaries, operative expenses, waste collection, etc.
“Only the expenses for the salaries of the cleaning staff and their social security contributions is about 258 million ALL. This amount is even higher than the earnings of the Municipality of Durrës from the cleaning tax collection in years.As a result, the Municipality must improve the administration of the waste collection scheme of the cleaning taxes included in the utility bill, by increasing taxes, or financing the deficit by other resources such as limiting investments in other areas or providing services in other areas. Another option is to request financial aid from the government as an emergency situation, but this can’t be a long-term solution since it violates principles of financial decentralization. If this happens naturally the Albanian Government must put tough conditions on the Municipality to manage its finances well, an action plan of how to return to normality, and guaranty the situation won’t be repeated. The key in the long term is the administration of local earnings by the Municipality of Durrës by increasing them, which means the improvement of the tax collection scheme and/or raising of tariffs. For instance, the cleaning tax (the latter would further burden households), and well managing of funds by decreasing abuse and deciding on more financially effective alternatives. This problem as we understand has been carried over the years which indicate the low amount of responsibility in financial administration this municipality has had in the past. This is a typical case where a crisis like that of the pandemic and the earthquake highlights our structural weaknesses which have been unaddressed in years, we need to take measures for a more resilient future for our communities.”- said the expert.
Faktoje sent an official request for information to the Ministry of Energy and Infrastructure, the Ministry of Finances and the Ministry of Tourism, where we asked what definitive solution had been decided for the waste problem in Durrës, how much it will cost to the state budget for the 10-year period asked by the municipality of Durres, etc.
Official request for information to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy
In the response of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy is explained that, until July 15, the treatment of Durrës waste will be done in the landfill of Sharra with no tariff. As for the solution after this date, the MIE suggested us to inquire the Municipality of Durrës, as it is under the competence of the local institution.
Reply by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy
The Ministry of Energy stated that in the National Plan for the integrated management of waste 2020-2035 it is the Ministry of Environment that drafts policies on waste management.
Response of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy
Regarding the information requests sent to Ministry of Environment and that of Economy and Finances relating to the matter, Faktoje is still waiting for a response.
We searched for data even in the Local Plan for Waste Disposal 2010-2030, where the Municipality of Durres had prepared several scenarios to solve the situation among which was the one for the fivefold increase of the cleaning tax by 2030, in comparison to the tax of 2009.
Screenshot of a utility bill (year 2021), including the cleaning tax of 255.56 ALL
While the closing of the landfill of Porto Romano was highlighted in this plan, (no later than 2015), one of the suggested scenarios was the construction of a new landfill in the outskirts of Durrës, or cooperation on the regional level with an existing landfill. The latter was the implemented scenario, since the Sharra landfill undertook to treat the waste of the Municipality of Durrës.
Screenshot with some suggested scenarios by the Municipality of Durrës
After July 15, the Sharra landfill confirmed to “Faktoje” that it continues to receive and treat the municipality waste.
Screenshot of the reply by the Sharra landfill on July 22
Durrës Municipality also confirms that the waste is still being disposed in the landfill of Sharra.
Reply of the Municipality of Durrës on July 29
In such circumstances where the Municipality of Durrës is unable to collect taxes and has an insufficient budget to pay for the management of waste, the government will provide financial aid to the municipality, pursuant to the DCM adopted on July 30. The municipality is legally obligated to conduct the management of waste itself; therefore it is required to find a solution. The current situation, warns of impending environmental disaster due to waste which can take even greater dimensions, because similar to the Municipality of Durrës, with the closure of the Porto Romano landfill (as it was also warned in the local plan of waste management 2010-2039) even other municipalities such as that of Kavaja and Shijak require an emergency solution to waste management.