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Illegal Waste Dumps in Pezinok, Slovak Republic


Description:

Pezinok is a town in western Slovakia famous for its vineyards, which play a key role in the local economy. Soil pollution began affecting wine farmers, however, starting from the 1960s [1]. Part of a trend of neighboring countries illegally dumping waste nationwide for a cheap price, Pezinok’s first illegal, unregulated dump, or rather a ditch without any drainage, ventilation, or containment capacity, was dug only 150 meters from residential areas [1, 4]. Nicknamed “the old landfill,” it held more than 1,000,000 cubic meters of garbage that leaked into groundwater [15]. These residents consequently developed  icreasing rates of cancer, respiratory diseases, allergies, and leukemia allegedly at more than 80 times the national average [1, 4]. The landfill stored toxic wastes from places such as foreign chemical factories and hospitals [4]. Authorities also once found over 300,000 liters of used oil shipped to Pezinok on two lorries from Austria and the Czech Republic [6]. In 1996, the old landfill was privatised by CEO of waste company Ekologická Skládka Ján Man Senior, an important sponsor for the SMER political party and various associated politicians, through whom he could get fake permits. He let the Pezinok brickworks factory begin dumping more of its waste there, increasing the dump’s capacity to 65,000 tonnes annually [15].

In 2002, a new law banned landfills within city limits. Yet as the dump became full, in September 2002, Ján Man planned to build another dumping ground called “the new landfill” anyway without prior and informed consent from residents [4]. The proposed site was 280 meters from homes and 400 meters from the city center. Locals strongly objected to the new landfill, but authorities ignored them. Pezinok itself already had advanced recycling capacity and did not need a landfill, which reports stated would greatly exceed regional demands. Instead, the landfill was built specifically to receive foreign waste [15].

Sick of the smell of the landfill and dangerous chemicals threatening the health of her young daughters, Zuzana Čaputová, a local attorney working at public law NGO Via Iuris, began organizing a wide variety of collection actions against the proposed landfill [10]. Protest activities included artistic mobilization such as concerts, photo exhibitions, and community newsletters; demonstrations such as over 20 protests, marches, campaigns, cycling tours, and public discussions; as well as legal action such as petitions and complaints filed to the European Parliament, Prime Minister, Civic Guard, and Ministry of Environment. To support these activities, Čaputová united a wide variety of people targeting all segments of the Pezinok community such as artists, local businesses, wine producers, students, church leaders and reaching out to local and international media [1, 10, 15]. Although people of the movement came from diverse walks of life, everyone was motivated to join under the slogan “Skládka do mesta nepatrí (Dumps don’t belong in towns)” because everyone had sick people in their family. The landfills directly affected their lives [1, 4].

In August 2008, the movement had its largest protest with over 7,000 participants in response to the Slovak Environment Inspectorate (IZP) approving construction of the new landfill [11, 14]. At the time, Čaputová already had photographs and other evidence indicating that construction began illegally as early as March before the project was approved [9]. The IZP refused to release the reasoning and details around the decision, calling it a “trade secret” and preventing anyone from questioning the licensing procedure [11]. Yet despite investors having very close connections to decision-makers, the size and zeal of the movement slowly began convincing some of the local politicians [14]. Čaputová and her supporters, including celebrity singers Jana Kirschner and Peter Cmorík, accused public authorities of violating not only laws, but also the basic principles of democracy, demanding action from authorities at every level [13, 14]. Continuing the fight, Čaputová brought the case all the way to the European Union Court of Justice. On August 20, 2013, she managed a landmark victory as the Slovakian Supreme Court officially declared that the landfill proposal was illegal and ordered Ekologická Skládka to shut down [5, 8]. The Court of Justice also ruled that the public has the right to give input to urban planning decisions, especially those that affect the environment. Protecting trade secrets is not a valid reason to deny this right [1, 12]. Both landfills are now closed, but the abandoned ditches are still sitting there without any proper move to clean them up [4]. 

In December 2017, Čaputová left Via Iuris to enter the political scene, focusing on environmental issues. She eventually ran for president in May 2018 after her friend journalist Ján Kuciak and his wife were killed for exposing corrupt deals between the government and Italian mafia [2, 7]. Čaputová ran on the slogan “stand up to evil,” complaining about corruption and cronyism among Slovakia’s ruling elite. However, she resolutely refused to engage in personal attacks on her opponents, instead focusing on institutional reform [3]. She was successfully inaugurated as president of the Sloval Republic on June 15, 2019 [2]. Her experience with the landfill shaped her political approach as focusing on combatting the corruption perpetuating structural issues, and hopes her candidacy will inspire women to enter politics despite the male-dominated field being so hostile toward women in high office as without “proper manners” [3].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Illegal Waste Dumps in Pezinok, Slovak Republic
Country:Slovak Republic
State or province:Bratislava
Location of conflict:Pezinok
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Industrial waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The first building stage of the new landfill was planned to be the equivalent of the size of 12 soccer fields (~7 ha), depth of a 5 floor apartment building, and capacity of 700,000 tons [15].

Project area:7
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:07/05/1996
End of the conflict:20/08/2013
Company names or state enterprises:Ekologická Skládka
Relevant government actors:Slovak Environment Inspectorate (IZP)
Slovakian Supreme Court
European Union Court of Justice
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Via Iuris
Greenpeace Slovakia

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Women
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Violations of human rights

Outcome

Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
New legislation
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:Zuzana Čaputová was the leader of this struggle, she got the Goldman Prize. A politician, lawyer, and environmental activist she has been President of Slovakia since 15 June 2019. Both landfills are now shut down.

Sources & Materials

Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[15] Justice and Environment. Pezinok case (2013)
http://www.justiceandenvironment.org/_files/file/2013/Pezinok Case na web.pdf

[3] The Guardian. Zuzana Čaputová, the spiritual liberal who beat Slovakia’s populists (Walker 2019)
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/apr/13/zuzana-caputova-slovakia-president-spiritual-liberal-progressive-values

[4] Goldman Prize. Q&A with Zuzana Čaputová (2016)
https://www.goldmanprize.org/blog/qa-zuzana-caputova/

[5]Via Iuris. Zuzana Čaputová Receives Today the Prestigious Goldman Prize (2016)
https://viaiuris.sk/en/news/zuzana-caputova-receives-today-the-prestigious-goldman-prize/

[6] Radio Prague Int. CZECH WASTE ILLEGALLY DUMPED IN SLOVAKIA (Lazarova 2007)
https://www.radio.cz/en/section/news/czech-waste-illegally-dumped-in-slovakia

[7] Radio Slovakia International. New Slovak president Zuzana Čaputová takes office on Saturday (2019)
https://enrsi.rtvs.sk/articles/topical-issue/198335/new-slovak-president-zuzana-caputova-takes-office-on-saturday

[8] The Daily. Pezinok ‘stops the rot’ (2010)
http://www.thedaily.sk/pezinok-stops-the-rot/

[9] Vyvlastnenie. Fishy smell lingers over Pezinok waste dump (Lesna 2008)
http://www.vyvlastnenie.sk/clanok/a/fishy-smell-lingers-over-pezinok-waste-dump/

[10] Inter-environment Bruxelles. How one woman galvanized a community to fight the landfills plaguing her town (2016)
http://www.ieb.be/How-one-woman-galvanized-a-community-to-fight-the-landfills-plaguing-her-town

[11] The Slovak Spectator. The proceeding of the infamous Pezinok waste dump has been suspended (2015)
https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20826208/the-proceeding-of-the-infamous-pezinok-waste-dump-has-been-suspended.html

[12] UNECE. Pezinok dump opponents win case (Lesna 2013)
https://aarhusclearinghouse.unece.org/news/pezinok-dump-opponents-win-case

[13] The Slovak Spectator. Protestors still fired up over Pezinok waste dump (Lesna 2008)
https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20030480/protestors-still-fired-up-over-pezinok-waste-dump.html

[14] Earth Island Journal. Wielding the Law to Safeguard the Land (Loftus-Farren 2016)
https://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/wielding_the_law_to_safeguard_the_land/

Meta information

Contributor:Dalena Tran, ICTA, [email protected]
Last update12/03/2020
Conflict ID:4985

Images

 

Zuzana

Zuzana Čaputová addresses supporters after winning the Slovakian presidential election. Photograph Radovan Stoklasa Reuters

Pezinok protest

Citizens of Pezinok did not - and do not want a dump in their town. (Source: TASR)