The World Bank/WBI’s CBNRM Initiative
Case Received: February 7, 1998
Authors: James Gruber, Mihail Staynov, Paul Markowitz, and Tsvetanka Kostadinova
Tel: +1 603 357-3122
Fax: +1 603 357-0718
Bulgaria Solid Waste Policy Demonstration Project: A Model of Broad-Based Empowerment for Environmental Change
IDENTIFICATION OF CASE
"The issue of solid waste management can't just be managed by regulations but also by people themselves. We like to involve all members from this society in the process of decision making to meet the needs of the public in a better way"
- Mihail Staynov, Bulgarian Project Director, Ministry of Environment
In early 1994 an inter-ministry committee ranked solid waste as one of the highest environmental priorities for investment in Bulgaria. There were an estimated 1,600 uncontrolled landfills causing documented and assumed degradation of natural resources including severe impacts on numerous watersheds, the loss of forests adjacent to burning dumps, the poisoning of range land near disposal sites, air pollution, and contamination of soils, groundwater and surface water supplies. Due to a lack of re-use and recycling of materials, the need for high levels of resource extraction resulted in additional impacts on natural resources. Illegal waste disposal was an all too familiar sight with waste strewn along the roadsides, rivers, and streams. There was a clear need for a comprehensive, effective national policy that could result in concrete, measurable progress and change the way governments, businesses and individuals dealt with solid waste.
Leadership in the Ministry of Environment recognized a need to re-frame how Bulgaria developed environmental policy. To test out an innovative approach of environmental policy development the Ministry and the U.S. EPA, in early 1995, agreed to a demonstration solid waste management project with program design, facilitation, policy, and technical assistance from the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC) and the Institute for Community Environmental Management (ICEM). This demonstration project was developed with the goal of building broad-based empowerment in order to effectively address systemic environmental problems. To achieve this, the demonstration project partners agreed to a multi-level, open policy development process that was unique for Bulgaria. The process included seminars/workshops, a U. S. seminar for national and local officials, field testing in demonstration communities, and public participation and education. It culminated in the completion of a draft National Policy on Solid Waste that led to comprehensive national legislation.
THE INITIAL SITUATION
As part of the former communist Eastern European political and economic system, the government of Bulgaria had been managed in a highly centralized manner. Citizens and local officials were rarely consulted in the creation or implementation of policy. There were few established feedback loops which could bring information from one area of the system to another in order to correct harmful behavior. Environmental degradation was one result of this system.
In the area of solid waste there were many problems. The quantity of waste generated was rapidly increasing and the waste disposal system was in need of re-organization and new technology. Waste reduction technology was virtually non-existent in Bulgaria. New methods for recycling, composting, and reuse were needed. New environmentally safe landfills needed to be constructed and old ones properly closed. There was a lack of defined duties and responsibilities for national government and local government. There was a lack of defined responsibilities for either the waste producers or those who disposed of the waste. Collection and transportation of waste was seriously under funded. The centrally planned, expert base society left the public uninformed and uneducated on solid waste issues. These problems had not gone unexamined or unacknowledged. In fact many solutions had been initiated, but had become lost during Bulgaria's political and economic restructuring. Existing regulations were not updated, inadequately enforced, and no practical, effective long-term solutions had been developed. In 1994, Bulgaria had over 100 environmental laws on the books yet little tangible progress could be seen. It was clear that not only did specific solid waste problems need to be addressed, but the way in which policy was developed and implemented also needed to be changed.
THE CHANGE PROCESS
"We are talking about changes in the way people think."
- Mayor Stomanyarski of Vratsa
Task Force and Advisory Board
During the initial process to clarify the scope and focus of the project, the Ministry decided, in addition to a project manager and coordinator, to create a Task Force and an Advisory Board which would be consulted throughout the project. The Task Force was originally to composed of only representatives from different departments within the Ministry of Environment (MoE), but during the planning period it became clear that, since the Ministry of Regional Planning and Construction (MoRPC) was responsible for oversight of many local government activities, their participation throughout the process was critical. Consequently representatives of the MoRPC were included in the Task Force as well. In order to solicit broader participation and input throughout the policy development process, an Advisory Committee was appointed to assist the Task Force. This committee was comprised of representatives from other ministries (e.g. Health, Agriculture and Food Industry), Non-Governmental Organizations, municipalities, solid waste utilities, and private industry. The Advisory Committee was included in all the seminars/workshops, met several times with the Task Force between seminars/workshops, and had direct input into the final draft of the policy.
Throughout the process there was an effort to solicit as much information from as wide variety of sources as possible. Prior to the first training, the U.S. project manager spent a week in Bulgaria soliciting information from those closest to the project and meeting with a variety of governmental officials. The process included delegation visits to the two demonstration communities where meetings were held with local officials, NGOs, environmental youth groups, and concerned citizens.
The seminars/workshops were a key element of the overall project. They were designed to assess problems, evaluate possible solutions, and guide participants through a structured process in order to develop policy approaches and prioritized implementation strategies which would work in Bulgaria. As important as the content of these sessions was the way in which they were structured. All seminars/workshops were designed with the goal of building ownership of the issues and the developing policy. They modeled an inclusive, open process where many different stakeholders or constituencies could participate and begin to identify common ground. These seminars formed the foundation upon which a new approach to national solid waste policy was developed.
U. S. Study Seminar
ISC and ICEM organized a U. S. Study seminar relatively early in the project (May 1995) for seven Bulgarians from the MoE, MoRPC, and a representative from each of the two demonstration communities. The trip was designed to provide a number of opportunities for the members of the delegation to broaden their insight into specific U.S. methods of solid waste management on the federal, state and local levels. A second benefit from the trip was the strengthening of relationships both within the delegation and between the members of the delegations and the U. S. partners.
In order to determine the viability of the draft policy, the project included two demonstration communities who were responsible for the design of their own municipal solid waste plans. Veliko Tarnovo and Vratsa were selected through a competitive process. Each community appointed working groups composed of representatives from the municipal government, local solid waste utilities, NGOs, and industries. These groups then provided comments and recommended changes to the local draft solid waste management plan. Working simultaneously on the local and national levels provided an opportunity both to field test elements of the policy and also to forge greater cooperation and respect between these levels of government which will be crucial if the policy is to be implemented successfully.
Public Participation and Education
Throughout the project public participation and education were encouraged. Two of the seminars/workshops contained sections to help the participants better understand the importance of public participation in policy development and implementation and to evaluate methods which can be used to involve all interested parties in the policy development process. The importance of on-going efforts at public information and education was also discussed. The U.S. project manager assisted the Ministry in setting up open public hearings in the two demonstration communities and a focus group in Sofia. There were also press conferences regarding the proposed policy when it was completed. This level of openness and public engagement was new in Bulgaria. The extent to which the Ministry embraced this new approach was evident in their decision to change the final conference in order to include an open public forum. The significance of this open process is expressed by a participant who commented: "This is probably the first time that the government and the public are united." (Ivan Totev, Advisory Committee Member)
"In just under two years, Bulgaria has defined a program that took 25 years to evolve in the U.S." - William Muzynski, Deputy Administrator, U. S. EPA , November 1996.
In October 1997 the Bulgarian National Assembly passed Comprehensive National Solid Waste Legislation (Act for the Reduction of the Harmful Impact of Waste Upon the Environment) which developed a comprehensive solid waste program, addressing solid waste management through programs for pollution abatement and prevention as well as materials resource management. It established roles for each level of government and the private sector.
The National Solid Waste Policy and subsequent Legislation was designed through a broad public engagement process to meet Bulgaria's unique situation. It was informed by policies and approaches utilized in the United States and Western Europe.
Participants in the process, including members of the two Ministries, recognized that Bulgaria's environmental problems cannot be addressed solely by technical systems, but also require a change in the attitude of its citizens and institutions. "This solid waste management policy requires a change in thinking" said Mayor Stomanyarski of Vratsa.
There was a realization that the old from of policy making needed to be transformed from an approach that involves only "experts" to one which includes the public and other constituency groups. A Task Force member stated, "The broadening of the policy process turned out to be especially useful in line with the ability to check opinion on both the expert level and with regard to the general population."
Participants increased both their level of comfort and skills in organizing and holding public hearings and press conferences. "Public participation is a major contribution to the project" said Neli Illeva, MoE.
Citizen and NGO engagement in solid waste increased within the demonstration communities and through public hearings and workshops/seminars.
A model municipal solid waste ordinance was developed that includes provisions for instituting user fees and charges that can be used to fund local solid waste programs.
The two demonstration communities of Veliko Tarnovo and Vratsa developed local/regional solid waste plans consistent with the National Policy and implemented elements of their plans. Both have been recognized for their exceptional work. Veliko Tarnova recently won a European Environmental Commission special prize for central and eastern European countries for promoting sustainable development and Vratsa recently was awarded a $1,000,000 Danish grant for a new lined landfill. Both municipalities stated that these successes were based principally upon their solid waste planning and implementation efforts under this project.
It was crucial to have a high level of commitment in the Bulgarian ministries and demonstration communities. The MoE had selected solid waste as the focus of the project, dedicated staff resources, and committed $30,000 in matching funds for implementation grants in the demonstration communities. Many key individual staff members at the MoE and MoRPC were highly dedicated to the project including the Project Manager, Deputy Ministers, Project Coordinator, and Task Force Members. There were several changes of Bulgarian personnel due to a change in national and local governments during the project and changes in the staff at the local NGO partner which might have served to derail the project. However there were enough people committed to the project and involved in its development that these unforeseen changes did not significantly interfere with maintaining the momentum of the project and achieving its objectives.
The formation of an Advisory Committee which represented a broad cross-section of constituency groups and provided information and feedback in the policy development process was essential to the broad base of support the draft policy and legislation was to receive (and contributed to the relatively easy passage of the comprehensive national legislation). It also served as a key element in a new model of environmental policy development which acknowledges the critical role that the public and constituency groups can play.
The Bulgarian and U.S. Partners were careful to design the project and each of its elements to include as many different constituencies as possible and to utilize a variety of approaches for engaging and building ownership by the participants .
At the final conference Task Force member Stefka Tzekova summarized the importance of broad based engagement for achieving success under this ambitious project by stating: "A policy is nothing if it doesn't rest on burning public opinion." This model is one approach for building "burning public opinion," and utilizing that energy in promoting systemic change in environmental management.
The recently enacted national legislation is currently being implemented through rule making, a national program for training local officials, and a national public awareness campaign.
Core Project Management Team
Mihail Staynov, Bulgarian Project Director, Ministry of Environment, Bulgaria
Tsvetanka Kostadinova, Bulgarian Project Coordinator, Ministry of Environment, Bulgaria
Paul Markowitz, U.S. Project Director, Institute for Sustainable Communities, Vermont
James Gruber, U.S. Project Manager, Institute for Community Environmental Management of Antioch New England Graduate School, New Hampshire Time Eco Projects, NGO Partner, Bulgaria