By Erl Murati
Plastic cans, empty cigar packs and banana skins litter the sand of Shengjin beach, making unattractive company for thousands of tourists who have invaded this shore of Adriatic Sea, some 45 kilometres from Tirana. Pigs sift through rubbish alongside the road.
“It is the second time I come to Albania to spend my vacations. The sea is very nice but has too much rubbish. The dirty smell make us spend our days in the sea while in the evenings, we cannot sleep because of the mosquitoes,” Gjylsime Bajramaj, 52, of Kosovo, told SETimes.
Sanitary trash disposal is an issue throughout the region – only 1 in 4 dumps in Serbia are in line with EU standards, and even Croatia, which joined the EU this year, has yet to offer trash collection to its entire population.
But in few places is the situation as dire as Albania, which operates only two garbage dumps. In most cases, urban rubbish ends up in the sea through the rivers that are used as natural transporters for thousands of tons of refuse every day.
“It cannot be said that Albania has a system of garbage management but a garbage disposal instead. Garbage is collected outside the residences, but not very far from them. This system does not function for the entire territory, for example, not in the rural areas,” environmentalist Lavdosh Ferruni told SETimes.
Albania approved a law on garbage management in 2010 but the environmentalists said that its execution remains a problem.
“This law is adapted according to the EU legislation but it does not function properly. The situation is grave because the garbage continues to progressively grow in most of the territory for more than 20 years,” said Lavdosh Ferruni, executive director of the Organic Agriculture Association in Tirana.
In spite of the protests of the environmentalists, the government agreed in August to import 2,600 tonnes of garbage from Greece and Italy. A public referendum is scheduled for December 22nd on the issue.
“In the field of garbage management, we have treated with priority the approximation of the Albanian legislation with that of the European Union. After the approval of the law in 2013, the government has approved eight decisions in full line with the EU directives,” said Vladimir Bezhani, chief of garbage management sector in the Ministry of Environment.
Albania produces 825,000 tonnes of garbage every year.
A report of the Ministry of Environment indicates the garbage disposal system is lacking in rural areas and small cities. “Most of these area´s garbage are deposited in the rivers or by the side of the roads. There is not a safe system for the administration of the dangerous garbage (those produced by the industries or by the houses). Actually the execution of legislation is at low levels,” the report shows.
“The only way to reach the EU standards regarding the management of garbage is the execution of the law. We have a good law but the problem is that it is not executed,” Xhemal Mato, director of Eco Movement, told SETimes.
The government plans to build three other garbage dumps, in Vlora, Saranda and Korca, in hopes that the progressive growth of the urban garbage will be suppressed until 2020.