DESPITE a sustained and vocal protest by locals against a proposed new waste dump near the centre of the western-Slovak town of Pezinok, its construction now seems more likely than not. The town of Pezinok is part of Bratislava Region and is the centre of a famous wine-growing area.
On August 18, the Slovak Environmental Inspectorate turned down all appeals by the town of Pezinok and by civic activists and ruled that a waste dump can be built only 400 metres from the town centre. Its ruling can now only be challenged in court.
The Inspectorate did not consider the main argument of the activists and the town’s mayor, that the dump would contravene both Pezinok’s master plan and a generally binding directive which specifically prohibits any such site in the town.
The original licence to build the dump in contravention of Pezinok’s master plan was issued by the Regional Construction Office in Bratislava, whose president is Ján Man, Jr. the owner of the land where the proposed dump will be built. He was appointed to the job after being nominated by the national governing party, Smer. He was formally excluded from the decision-making process which approved the project.
Issuing its decision, the Slovak Environmental Inspectorate said “The inspectorate cannot examine the decisions of other public administration bodies”.
Peter Višváder, a spokesman for the Environment Ministry, refused to comment on the Inspectorate’s decision.
“The ministry respects and has to respect, according to the law and due process, the decision of the Slovak Environmental Inspectorate, which is an independent body,” he told the public service TV station Slovak Television on August 21.
According to Zuzana Čaputová, legal adviser to the civic association ‘A Waste Dump Does Not Belong in a Town’ the decision is a failure by public officials.
“Our opinion is that it is the result of an abuse of power and that it is brutally illegal,” Čaputová told The Slovak Spectator.
According to her, the verdict of the Slovak Environmental Inspectorate sends a dangerous signal to all citizens that “even though justice is on our side and our will is unambiguous, representatives of the state do not care”.
The generally binding directive which prohibits a waste dump in the town is as binding as any other legal ruling and can be cancelled only by the Constitutional Court, Čaputová stressed.
Civic activists as well as Pezinok’s mayor claim that the dump would be located too close to the town centre and be too smelly. But Marián Kočner, who is a representative of Westminster Brothers, the company which has now started building the dump, as well as being a well-known and controversial Slovak businessman, has made no attempt to hide the fact that the company is mainly interested in profiting from the scheme.
Kočner claimed that the activists are being paid by a private company interested in building the dump elsewhere. “It is a competition and a fight, and someone is misusing the locals for this,” Kočner told The Slovak Spectator.
He substantiated his claim with calculations. The Pezinok dump will receive 60,000 to 80,000 tons of waste annually; each ton, he said, would generate income for the owner of Sk2,000 (€70).
“Just calculate how much money that is,” Kočner said.
He added that a competitor planned to build a similar waste dump in the village of Zohor – but to do so, it needed to prevent construction of dump in Pezinok.
Čaputová described Kočner’s words as complete nonsense. “I have a family. It is very important to me what air we breathe,” she said. “Nothing is more crucial for me.”
Pezinok Mayor Oliver Solga stressed to The Slovak Spectator that the dump’s opponents would use every legal avenue open to them, and that they are also preparing civil protests. They have organised a concert in Pezinok against the dump, to take place on September 10.
Solga added that citizens of other towns and cities which have experienced similar problems with waste dumps, such as Trebišov, were expected to attend the concert.
Čaputová specified that as far as legal steps were concerned, they would first file a suit protesting the illegality of the decision. “Its role will be to request a delay in enforcement of the inspectorate’s decision, hence stopping the possibility to the dump materialising,” Čaputová added.
Activists also plan to file a special appeal at the Environment Ministry to examine the legality of the inspectorate’s decision. Finally, activists say they will send a petition to the European Parliament. According to Čaputová, the European Parliament cannot revoke the decision but it can put pressure on the Slovak authorities.
Ján Man, Jr., who owns the land where the new facility will be situated and presides over the regional office which issued the permit for its construction, is also the son of Ján Man, Sr., who is the chairman of Pezinok-based company Ekologická Skládka, which requested the construction permit and was originally in charge of the waste project, the Sme daily reported. Ekologická Skládka announced on February 19, 2008 that it was backing out of the project in order to avoid entanglement in the growing controversy.
Prime Minister Robert Fico, who is also leader of the Smer party, said in February, when protests against the dump had begun, that he suspected that more than just environmental concern lay behind the protests, and that he instead believed they were being organised as an attack on people close to his party.
On February 20, representatives from Pezinok brought to Bratislava a petition protesting against the dump bearing 6,134 signatures.
Peter Višváder, the Environment Ministry spokesman, confirmed to The Slovak Spectator that the ministry had assessed the technical draft and plan for the dump from the point of view of its compliance with the regulations on waste disposal.
“From a technical point of view, the dump fulfils criteria taken into account when choosing the locality for a waste dump,” Višváder stressed on May 19, speaking to The Slovak Spectator.
On May 9, around five hundred Pezinok residents took part in a protest march against work which had begun at the proposed dump site only a few hundred metres from the town’s historical centre.
After three inspections, the Bratislava Environmental Inspectorate (IŽP) in May confirmed that an illegal waste dump was being built in the town. The Inspectorate called on the dump's constructor, Westminster Brothers, Inc., to „immediately halt construction“ and stated it was drawing up plans to impose a fine of up to Sk5 million.
But on August 20 Kočner said that the company had never received the IŽP decision and that Westminster Brothers had therefore continued building the waste dump.
Čaputová dismissed this statement, telling The Slovak Spectator that even if the decision had not been received, it was still binding for the company. “Once the Inspectorate has tried to deliver the order to the company’s official address, the company is still bound by it even if its representatives refuse to accept delivery,” she said.
1. Sep 2008 at 0:00 | Ľuba Lesná