Located 10 km from the center of the city of Gostivar, in the west of the Republic of North Macedonia, is one of the largest landfills in the country. One rainy October day, the journalistic team from Meta.mk and Portalb.mk, visited the Rusino landfill and during their brief visit shot shocking scenes. Apart from the tens of dogs and one woman with several children, we couldn’t find personnel that is controlling who can enter or leave the landfill.
Anyone can freely enter Rusino landfill, which leads to the situation that anybody can deposit waste and often irresponsible citizens cause fires. At the landfill, we managed to find medical waste in boxes, mixed with other waste. Due to the rainfall, huge quantities of polluted water together with the leachate was running of all over the landfill, along the bones and the animal remains thrown all over the landfill.
The horror that shook us when we saw the overall condition of the Rusino landfill, is everyday life for the citizens of Gostivar.
“We all want to breathe clean air. We are hindered in that by this landfill. There were periods when the people protested, but for quite some time that is not happening. But, when the situation was extremely dire, we couldn’t open the windows at home. I live at the other end of the city, but we also couldn’t open the windows,” said Goran Trpeski, whom we met in the center of Gostivar.
Another citizen who requested anonymity told us that the Rusino landfill is a very old problem that should be solved by closing this landfill and opening another one elsewhere.
“Outside Gostivar municipality, why should it be located here?” says one of the Gostivar citizens concerning the future location of the landfill.
Like the other municipal landfills in North Macedonia, Rusino doesn’t have A-Integrated Environmental Permit issued by the Ministry of Environment and it can be surely noted that it has been operating illegally, without meeting the legal standards for such facility. There are tens of municipali landfills such as Rusino throughout the country, but the problem with Rusino is that it is a regional landfill where the waste from all 9 municipalities in the Polog region is deposited.
The Government of North Macedonia has already secured CHF 1.9 million for the implementation of a new self-sustainable system for waste management in the Polog region, that has helped with the implementation of rapid measures for sanation of the Rusino landfill. A new road was built, a weighing scale was set to measure the quantities of waste that is deposited here and a gate with a guardhouse was set. A system for recycling the leachate from the landfill with channels, wells and other interventions for the protection of the soil.
A regional public enterprise for waste management in the Polog region has been established “ZJP Rusino-Polog” that in the future will be managing the landfill. At the moment, a procedure for personnel recruitment is underway.
“At this moment, the enterprise is still not operational and due to that, it is not able to conduct personnel recruitment, due to the provisions of the Election Code. Namely, during elections i.e. starting from the day when the elections had been called for and until the end of the election cycle, the state institutions including public enterprises, are banned from employing people. When the elections are over, in the shortest time period, the necessary employments will be accomplished and the enterprise will be functional” said the Center for the development of the Polog region.
The Ministry of Environment explained that at the start of this joint public enterprise will be using employees from existing communal enterprises from Tetovo, Gostivar, Mavrovo and Rostushe.
It also said that with additional grants from Switzerland in the amount of CHF 6 million, the illegal landfills in the Polog region will be cleaned up, and a location for composting organic waste will be built. The Swiss assets will be used also for a campaign for raising people’s awareness regarding waste management. Also, the Ministry of Finance has submitted a request for a loan in the amount of €17 370 614 that will be used for the construction of the new regional landfill Rusino 2, including the acquisition of trucks and dumpsters that will allow the complete waste collection and selection in all of the Polog municipalities.
For this purpose, a new Regional plan for waste management until 2029 has already been prepared, including a Feasibility study and technical documentation for the standardization and systematization of the waste management in the Polog region.
Still, as we saw on the location during our visit to Gostivar, not all the citizens and the local self-government are happy because of the upgrade of Rusino regional landfill at its current location.
The municipality of Gostivar said that it has agreed with the central government to implement sanitation measures at Rusino landfill that will turn it into a coordinated, controlled landfill in a period of 5 years.
“After 5 years, the landfill will have to be closed and in the meantime a more appropriate location to be found for the construction of the new “green” landfill, like those that are being built in European countries. Certainly the Ministry of Environment and the Polog municipalities are working toward that direction. Our position was to close the landfill, but in a period of 5 years, until the issue of the new landfill is solved, to be transformed into a new landfill with standards,” said Zudi Dzelili, advisor of the Mayor of Gostivar.
He also said that at the moment, the only thing that Rusino has is an excavator, with which JKP Komunalec from Gostivar is leveling the waste and is covering it with soil, up to the moment when the newly formed public enterprise will take over.
Dzelili claims that the capacity of the Rusino landfill is at a breking point, i.e. it won’t be able to accept waste from the whole region.
Opposite to this, the civil initiative “Environmental Youth Organization“ (EYO) said that as environmentalists they don’t support the dislocation of the Rusino landfill at another municipality, but they give their support for its reconstruction at a location in the vicinity of Gostivar, that will meet the European standards.
“EYO would propose a plan where the core focus would be given to waste classification and recycling, because if we want to solve the problem with the waste requires work and small capital investment in order to reach the target of waste classification in several cycles, and then building plants for treatment and reuse of the same waste,” said the members of this initiative.
Otherwise, the awful condition that the Rusino landfill is in, is not unique. Also, the resistance of the local authorities and the citizens toward building a regional landfill in their municipality is not an exception.
In Macedonia, for 17 years, not a single regional landfill was built up to the EU standards, where most of the waste would be selected and recycled, composted, or incinerated. Apart from the municipality of Gostivar, a similar resistance toward such environmental projects appeared in the municipalities of Debarca, Rosoman, Sveti Nikole, i.e. in these populated areas out of all other planning regions where such regional landfills were planned to be built.
Because of this, instead of a single location where the waste will be deposited, selected and treated – not deposited, , while the waste that will be deposited should be located at an appropriate place in order not to pollute the soil, air and the waters, until today, North Macedonia has tens of landfills where the pollution of the living environment is ongoing. There is no control over who throws any kind of waste on these locations, where the leachete ends up in nature to degrade and pollute in the meantime.