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In Roma quarter Fakulteta waste collection denied. Separation wall proposed, Sofia, Bulgaria


Description:

Situated in the western edge of the city, Fakulteta has an estimated population of between 20 000 and 30 000, most of them Roma [16]. Since 1949 or for 70 years now, in Fakulteta neighbourhood in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, waste collection as well as access to water and sanitation has been denied to Roma residents by the local authorities [1]. All the basic infrastructure is provided in the surrounding areas but cut short are Roma residents [1]. 

Because city of Sofia does not provide municipal waste collection services, an unregulated dump developed next to the Roma settlement causing risk of accidents. In 2011 there was around much waste accumulated in the Roma neighbourhood [14]. Thus, a former green space of the Fakulteta neighbourhood - the part where the Roma community lives, is now used as a dump site for industrial waste, produced within the Sofia municipality [1] [2].

Roma regularly collect the waste as a source of livelihoods; and burn it especially in winter to warm up exposing themselves to toxic and carcinogens substances. In addition, in the Roma neighborhoods the Roma scavengers and carters quite often will burn car tyres and other mixed materials to extract the different kinds of metal, which contaminates the air they inhale. [5][13].

In July 2011, the UN Expert travelled to Fakulteta to assess the situation of the Roma, and expressed alarm at the general conditions witnessed in  the neighborhood. The report  found minimal evidence of a strong Government commitment to Roma equality and remains unconvinced that ensuring such equality is a high priority for the current Government [3]. "Roma have no running water, sewage, paved streets, waste collection or street lights", the expert stated.  [3]

Although the Roma of Fakulteta are taxpayers, the local administration has to date done little to improve waste collection, the electricity supply, the water supply and other facilities and infrastructire of the settlment. The electrical grid in Fakulteta is very old and there is a total capacity of only seven megawatts for the whole area [2].

In 2011 a discriminatory separation wall was planned to be build by local authorities and railway company "Railway Infrastructure" (NKZI), to "protect" trains from accumulated waste [14]. 

The Roma community still lives in crowded informal settlements with no water, sewage, electricity nor green spaces, and are surrounded by a waste dump that was chosen not to be collected exactly in the Roma part of the Fakulteta neighbourhood [1] [2] [3] [4]. 

In 2014 the inhabitants organised a protest calling on the authorities to take measures for legalising their homes, and respectively the neighbourhood [12].

10 years before the protest, in April 2004, the electricity grid suffered an accident in which an underground cable burned. The result was a power failure in part of the neighbourhood [11]. Also, the company supplying electricity in Fakulteta cut the power in many occasions for unpaid bills. That same year (2004) the Sofia District Court ruled against the Sofia electric company and found out such cuts were unlawful and discriminatory [10].

Despite the legal decision the Romani inhabitants continued to experience electricity cuts. In 2006 there was another firebreak,  due to electricity cut off in the Roma settlement, in which a Romani child died and one adult was injured.  The fire started from a little candle used for lighting the house and the entire home burned into flames [7]. The Roma remain to live under these conditions until today (2019).

 

Basic Data

Name of conflict:In Roma quarter Fakulteta waste collection denied. Separation wall proposed, Sofia, Bulgaria
Country:Bulgaria
State or province:Stolichna municipality
Location of conflict:Sofia city, Fakulteta neighbourhood
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
Water access rights and entitlements
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Industrial waste
Recycled Metals
Water
Domestic municipal waste
Electricity

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Mayor of Sofia promised to initiate the measures necessary to legalise Fakulteta. To date, however, this promise remains unfulfilled [2]. The people of Fakulteta have been waiting for action from Bulgarian authorities for more than seventy years. Four regulation plans have been worked out during this time but none of them provided adequate housing and infrastructure for the Roma of Fakulteta [1]. Instead a separation wall is proposed by the local government and the National Railway Infrastructure company to separate the accumulated waste and the Roma from the railways that crosses the settlement [14].

Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:25,000-30,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2004
Company names or state enterprises:Bulgaria's National Company "Railway Infrastructure" (NKZI) (NKZI) from Bulgaria - Supporting the idea of Apartheid Wall to "protect" trains from Roma and the waste accumulated in Fakulteta settlement
Relevant government actors:The mayor of Sofia city (current and past), municipal council
The National Railway Infrastructure Company (NKZI)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:UN observers on minorities and human rights OHCHR https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24409&LangID=E

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:International ejos
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of mobilization:Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Fires, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Floods (river, coastal, mudflow)
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Accidents, Deaths
Potential: Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Increase in violence and crime

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Migration/displacement
Repression
Under negotiation
Proposal and development of alternatives:The proposals were first to legalise the Fakulteta neighbourhood and to provide waste collection, potable water, sanitation and electricity. Although the UN expert on minorities and human rights visited the settlement; the local government has not done anything to improve the situation of the Roma. Instead there is an idea under consideration to build a separation wall and to separate the waste in Fakulteta (and the Roma) from railways that cross through the settlement.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:For 70 years waste collection, water and sanitation denial to Roma in Fakulteta. Promises were made by local government to improve water and sanitation conditions of the Roma in the Fakulteta neighbourhood. To date, however, this promise remains unfulfilled. The idea and proposal by local government to build a separation wall is a racist and discriminatory act again the Roma in Fakulteta.

Sources & Materials

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

[15] Bulgarian property act
https://www.lex.bg/laws/ldoc/2122102787

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[1] The Routledge Handbook of Environmental Justice. 2018. 2nd edition.
https://www.routledge.com/The-Routledge-Handbook-of-Environmental-Justice/Holifield-Chakraborty-Walker/p/book/9781138932821

[4] Social inequalities and innovative practices to address them:

Case studies of Fakulteta and Hristo Botev
http://www.citispyce.eu/sites/default/files/Inovativni_praktiki_Hajdinjak_Kosseva_ENG.pdf

[11] Access to electricity in Roma settlement in Bulgaria, Equal opportunities initiative association, report 2015
http://www.equalopportunities.eu/docs/Access%20to%20electricity%20in%20Roma%20settlements%20in%20Bulgaria_report_en.pdf

[16] Barbourkova, R. Environmental Justice and Urban Resilience in the Global South. 2017.Allen, Adriana, Griffin, Liza, Johnson, Cassidy (Eds.). Page: 102-108. Palgrave Macmillan US
https://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9781137473530

[2] Fighting for Fakulteta: Advocating Roma Housing Righnts in Bulgaria
http://www.errc.org/roma-rights-journal/fighting-for-fakulteta-advocating-roma-housing-rights-in-bulgaria

[5]Central_and_Eastern_Europe Environmental_racism
http://brenneckebrennecke.blogspot.com/2011/05/centralandeasterneurope.html

[12] Bulgarian National TV, Romani protest stopped train circulation near Fakulteta, 29 July 2014
http://news.bnt.bg/bg/a/275364-protest-na-romi-sprya-tri-vlaka-do-kv-fakulteta

[9] Roma from Fakulteta protest against electricity supplier, 9 February 2018
https://pik.bg/хиляди-на-бунт-роми-от-прословутия-квартал-факултета-изреваха-на-умряло-чез-ни-дере-с-по-8-news725952.html

[10] Bulgarian court finds discrimination against Roma, 16 December 2004
http://www.errc.org/roma-rights-journal/bulgarian-courts-find-discrimination-against-roma

[7] Romani enfant dies in Bulgaria in fire after electricity cut in the settlement
http://www.errc.org/roma-rights-journal/romani-infant-dies-in-fire-in-bulgaria-after-electricity-cut-in-settlement

[14] Bulgarian State Railways Mull Roma Ghetto Wall to Protect Trains
https://www.novinite.com/articles/127189/Bulgarian+State+Railways+Mull+Roma+Ghetto+Wall+to+Protect+Trains

[13] Bulgarian National TV, Railway is blocked by garbage near Fakulteta, 27 Sept. 2018
http://bnr.bg/post/101024235/jp-liniata-sofia-pernik-e-zadrastena-ot-bokluci-krai-fakulteta

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Roms, Turcs, Les nombreux visages de la Bulgarie, documentary released by Public Sénat, 2008 (available only in French)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JF0Sl5AeKgw

[3] UN: Human rights expert calls on Bulgaria to defend Roma people (2011)
https://www.speroforum.com/a/57241/UN-Human-rights-expert-calls-on-Bulgaria-to-defend-Roma-people#.XKTgcOszbOR

Meta information

Contributor:Ksenija Hanacek ICTA-UAB
Last update29/08/2019

Images

 

Fakulteta neighborhood

 

Fakulteta neighborhood

 

Railways that cross the Fakulteta settlment

Waste accumulated due to municipal wast collection denial. Source: Novinite.com

Fakulteta neighborhood

 

Fakulteta neighborhood

 

Railways that cross the Fakulteta settlment

Waste accumulated due to municipal wast collection denial. Source: Novinite.com