The Zagreb Solid Waste Management Programme, carried out by a city-owned company called ZGOS and mainly funded by the EBRD, comprises the rehabilitation of Zagreb’s Jakuševec landfill site, which is widely reported to be the largest illegal landfill in Central and Eastern Europe. Originally approved in 1998 and due to be completed this year (2005), the project is being carried out in two stages, with a combined cost of around 164.5 million Euros, with the EBRD providing around 76 million Euros. Whilst no-one disputes that action was needed in order to protect the local water supply, the project has been designed and carried out in an extremely irresponsible way, and has not led to the benefits intended. The rehabilitation of the dump involved the removal of 1000 tonnes of hazardous waste, but in order to keep the hands and reputation of the investors clean, no provisions were made in the project for dealing with it.
It was left to the City Council to build an incinerator, named PUTO, which was an ecological and health disaster from start to finish and was closed in 2002 after a serious fire. Residents in the southern Zagreb suburb of Jakuševec, around 6km from the city centre, complained of health problems which they attributed to the incinerator, including hormonal disorders, indigestion and breathing difficulties, and they claim that life expectancy in the area has decreased, while cases of cancer have increased. In addition they claim that fruit trees stopped bearing fruit and that birds vacated the area. The authorities failed to investigate their claims. After the closure of PUTO, there were still 500 tonnes of hazardous ashes to deal with, and no other hazardous waste disposal facilities in Croatia, which means that much of Croatia’s hazardous waste is likely to be ending up on municipal dumps again.
The benefits of rehabilitating the dump have also been questionable. Members of the Jakuševec Association for Environmental Protection (UZOJ) allege that the technical aspect of the project was not carried out properly. The concrete layers put into the landfill were supposed to be several metres thick, but according to UZOJ they are only 1.5 metres thick and still leak. In December 2003, it was reported that one of the protective layers in the Jakuševec landfill had broken, and that a rehabilitation of the rehabilitation would be needed, raising questions about the quality of the work done.
In summary, the local water supply is still not protected and the question of hazardous waste in Croatia remains unsolved.
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