CENN/USAID Program Assists the Local Government to Close an Illegal Landfill in Batumi

Batumi, the charming seaside city in Georgia’s Adjara region, represents one of the leading tourism destinations in the country due to its breathtaking nature and landscapes. Thousands of tourists visit Batumi every year to take in the sites and indulge in its natural wonder. However, special care and attention is needed to maintain such a unique and diverse natural environment and protect it from littering and pollution.

Littering is an ever-increasing worldwide problem. Chances are, you’ve seen litter scattered along roadsides, floating in waterways, or blowing across parks.

The well-being of people, animals, and the environment is compromised by litter. People can become injured by items such as broken glass and are susceptible to disease caused by unsanitary conditions. Animals are at risk of ingesting garbage and becoming trapped and debilitated by waste. The environment becomes threatened when litter invades natural habitats and when toxic chemicals from items, such as plastic, seep into soil and groundwater.

To combat this, the Waste Management Technology in Regions Program implemented by CENN with the support of USAID, assisted the local government of the city of Batumi in closing an illegal dumpsite located on I. Gagarini Street. This is the second landfill closed in Batumi this year, with an illegal landfill on Tabidze Street shut down in April. The Gagarini dumpsite covered an area of 1,950 m2. Batumi City Hall placed two waste bins on the territory. Furthermore, the program will install an informational banner on the cleaned area in the hopes of preventing further littering.

GEORGIA TODAY contacted Batumi City Hall for more details. A representative of the Agency noted that the closure of the landfill is important for the city’s ecology and human health, as it represented “quite a serious danger” to the local population.

“Batumi City Hall has been actively cooperating with CENN for several years, within the framework of the WMTR program supported by USAID,” the City Hall employee told us. “Through joint efforts, we established a five-year waste management plan for our city and began implementing it. This resulted in closure of the dumpsite on Gagarini Street, where different types of municipal and construction waste had been accumulated. Over 2500 cubic meters of waste was collected and transported to a legal landfill in Batumi. Illegal dumping not only distorts the appearance of the city, but it is also pollutes the air, soil and groundwater. Such steps aimed at reducing negative environmental factors, especially in a touristy town like Batumi, are of utmost importance.”

Over the years, low environmental awareness has been and remains a major challenge countrywide, including in the Adjara region.

“We have to identify illegal waste disposal sites every year and conduct further liquidation works. Although we see a clear decline in this direction compared to previous years, it is still a major environmental problem in our city,” the representative told us. “In general, closure of illegal landfills can be expensive. Human resources alone are not enough - heavy equipment is also needed, especially when working towards international standards. In the Gagarini Street case, those expenses were fully covered by the CENN / USAID WMTR program. City Hall participated through non-cash contributions - as defined by the project. This is the second illegal landfill in Batumi to be closed in collaboration with CENN/USAID. In April, an illegal landfill on Tabidze Street was also cleaned up and closed - about 2000 cubic meters of waste was collected and transported to a legal landfill in Batumi. City Hall has placed waste bins in the area of all closed illegal landfills to prevent further pollution and organizes meetings and events aimed at raising the environmental awareness of residents.”

Apparently, illegal dumpsites can “spontaneously occur” in various locations.

Batumi City Hall has been cooperating with CENN within the scope of the USAID-supported Waste Management Technology in the Regions program since 2015. Considering that many important events have been implemented and much effort has been made to improve the environment in the city of Batumi as well as in the whole region, City Hall says it expects that cooperation will become even more active in the future to positively impact the environmental policy of the city.

GT also talked with CENN representative Nino Tevzadze, Deputy Chief of Party of WMTR Phase II, to find out more about the illegal landfill closure, ecological conditions in the region and CENN’s future plans for the WMTR program.

Please elaborate on the importance of the Gagarini landfill closure in terms of environmental protection?

The closure of the illegal landfill was important not only from an environmental perspective, but also for promoting tourism. In general, illegal landfills create a serious problem in terms of both groundwater and air pollution, create unsanitary conditions at the local level and are visually displeasing. Therefore, we think that such activities are important for the development of the region.

What measures were taken while closing the landfill?

Closure works included the collection and transportation of the waste disposed in the dumpsite to Batumi’s official landfill. In addition, two waste collection bins were placed on the territory that will be served by the local municipal waste collection service. Furthermore, an informational banner will be installed in the area to prevent further littering on the territory.

Is it true that waste had been accumulating in the area for 15 years? Why wasn’t it closed sooner?

Yes. Different types of municipal and construction waste were disposed of during this time on the territory. The dumpsite was located in a non-urban part of the city near a rural settlement and was often a place cattle roamed. In the last few years, urban development has progressed in the direction of Gagarin Street. There are number of different-sized illegal dumpsites in the city and the local government is working to close them. Closure of the sites is quite expensive and maintaining the cleanliness of the area is not only dependent on the waste collection service, but also on the behavior of the public. This is why it is integral to raise environmental awareness.

This is the second closed illegal landfill in Batumi this year. Please tell us about the first.

Our program cooperated with the local government to close the illegal dumpsite on Tabidze Street, in which similar aforementioned activities were implemented. It is essential to implement such activities in close cooperation with local governments as their involvement ensures the sustainability of the results.

In general, what is the situation regarding environmental protection in the city?

The two closed dumpsites were the two largest in the city, the closure of which has had quite a positive impact on the city. Batumi has actively begun to introduce a separated waste collection system in the city with the support of our program. Currently, 11 recycling corners have been installed, where residents and visitors can bring their separated waste (paper, glass, aluminum and plastic PET bottles) to be further recycled. These recycling corners are served by the municipal waste collection company and are important for meeting the legislative requirement – as of February 2019, all local governments are required to start the gradual introduction of separated waste collection within their territories. It is also important because it reduces the amount of waste disposed of in landfills and supports the economic development of the country.

What else is planned in the Adjara region and in general, countrywide?

10 illegal dumpsites of various sizes were closed in Adjara in close cooperation with the local government. Such activities have also been implemented in the Kakheti region. In the future, a separated waste collection system is planned to be introduced in two municipalities of Adjara (Kobuleti and Khelvachauri), which will further progress the waste management situation in the region. This initiative will be implemented in close cooperation with the local government.

Tell us more about the WMTR program. What contribution does it make to environmental protection and which organizations cooperate with CENN in its implementation?

The program is implemented by CENN with the support of USAID in three regions – Kakheti, Shida Kartli and Adjara –and in Tbilisi. The program assists the Government of Georgia to modernize the country’s waste management sector and supports sustainable development and inclusive economic growth, ensuring responsible management of natural endowments that will minimize adverse impacts from waste on human health and natural resources. We are actively working with both the central and local governments at the legislative level as well as implementing actual work in terms of assisting the local government in fulfilling their waste management obligations under legislative requirements.

We are working with the private sector to support the development of the waste management sector in the country. Within the program, the Waste Management Association of Georgia was established which unites separated waste collection and recycling companies. The association has two main objectives: creating a business-friendly environment for the development of waste recycling and aggregating companies in Georgia through advocating and lobbying key issues for sector development with different interested parties, including decision makers; and developing the capacity of recycling and aggregating companies according to the best international practices.

We are also working with individual waste collection and recycling companies through various technical assistance to support their further development. Within the program, we have a grants component that aims to equip target companies with modern equipment to support their development. A key component of the program is awareness raising and public outreach; within this component the program is actively working with youth via various campaigns.

By Ana Dumbadze

12 September 2019 17:42