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Roma exposed to epidemics due to waste overflow in “Block 20”, Yambol Bulgaria

Romani families exposed to epidemics and infections due to waste overflow in Block 20 in Rayna Knyaginya, Yambol. The bloc was demolished by the authorities and Romani families live in shacks.


More than 200 Romani families lived in social housing in bloc number 20 in the Rayna Knyaginya neighborhood in Yambol between 1990 and 2010.  The bloc's management was completely abandoned by public authorities which was in charge of its renovation. As consequence bloc 20 became overpopulated: according to official records 1260 residents were registered there out of which 667 were children. Unofficial data estimate the number at around 1500-1800 inhabitants. Apartments were shared by a huge number of people, in some case up to 29, 14 of whom children. Another apartment measuring only 43 square meters was inhabited by 15 people, 6 of whom were children [6]. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Roma exposed to epidemics due to waste overflow in “Block 20”, Yambol Bulgaria
State or province:Yambol
Location of conflict:Yambol
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Water access rights and entitlements
Urban development conflicts
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Due to insalubrious housing conditions in the building number 20 in the Roma settlement the local authorities issued a demolition order, officially aiming to prevent further accidents. A private company was employed to demolish the building after a tender was hold in Yambol prior to the evacuation of the building. In fact the private German company LIDL announced a project for constructing a supermarket in the area prior to the mayor notice [8]. However, the supermarket has not been established in that place yet.

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Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:1200-1800
Start of the conflict:01/01/1998
Company names or state enterprises:Lidl from Germany
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Health, Ministry for regional development, Ministry for employment and social affairs;
Regional health inspectorate, Regional authorities (prefect)
Local authorities (mayor and municipal council)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:REF World reported the eviction and addressed the substandard housing conditions in which Roma live in Bulgaria:
Balkan Investigation reporting network:
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Property damage/arson
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Fires, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Deaths
Other Health impactsintoxication due to the use of plastic materials for heating
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other socio-economic impactsPlacement of children in institution for childcare; poverty is increased; criminalisation of an ethnic minority; homelessness
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Placement of children in institutions
Proposal and development of alternatives:The substandard housing conditions were reported by HBO in 2009 but the inhabitants had lived in such conditions since 1998. Despite available policy and funding the inhabitants of the Roma settlement still live in substandard housing, in insalubrious and toxic area due to uncontrolled dumps. Energetic efficiency and risk of fires remain a major problem due to the use of inflammable materials for building shacks, as well as makeshift items for heating homes.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The demolition of the insalubrious building number 20 in Rayna Knyaginya neighbourhood was a necessary measure due to the danger for the inhabitants health as well as the high risk of accidents. However, local authorities did not implement any policies to facilitate the access to proper housing regarding the evictees. Most of them, having no regular jobs or with low/no regular incomes did not have access to alternative accommodation and were made homeless.
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

8. Paradise hotel, HBO 2009
[click to view]

5. Roma Decade’ Passes Bulgarian Roma, Balkan fellowship for journalistic excellence, 8 April 2011
[click to view]

4. Bulgaria: Situation of Roma, including access to employment, housing, health care, and education; state efforts to improve the conditions of Roma (2009-September 2012) REFWORLD, 19 Oct.2012
[click to view]

6. Building No 20, Roma Transition, 29 November 2010
[click to view]

2. Roma Tensions Escalate in Bulgaria's Yambol, Novinite 17 Sept.2010
[click to view]

3. Roma Unrest Reported in Bulgaria's Yambol, Novinite 16 Sept.2010
[click to view]

7. "L'Hôtel Paradis" ou l'échec de l'intégration des Roms bulgares, La Dépêche 17 Sept. 2010
[click to view]

8. Bulgarian Party Approaches ECHR over Roma Scandal in Yambol, Novinite 21 Sept.2010
[click to view]

1. Bulgaria's Yambol Demolishes Notorious Building, Novinite 18 September 2010
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Radost Zaharieva, Human rights researcher and consultant
Last update15/10/2019
Conflict ID:4389
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