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Bulgaria: European Commission approves 1.7 bln euros Environment Operational Program

The European Commission has approved a new Environment Operational Program for Bulgaria, with a planned budget of 3,5 billion Bulgarian levs (1,7 billion euros) for the 2021-2027 budget year.

The program will play an essential role in preserving, protecting and improving the quality of the environment and supporting sustainable development in Bulgaria. It is co-financed by the European Fund for Regional Development, the Cohesion Fund and the state budget of Bulgaria. In particular, the funds will target the improvement of water supply infrastructure and air quality, environmentally-friendly waste management and protection of Bulgaria’s rich biodiversity, as well as prevention and management of the risk of floods, landslides, and forest fires.

The support for these goals is divided into 5 main priorities. Firstly, over 1,399 million Bulgarian levs (715 thousand euros) will be spent on the collection, removal and treatment of wastewater and water supply, as well as activities to improve the monitoring and assessment of water quality for drinking and domestic use. It is planned to expand and modernise the water supply and sewerage infrastructure for the already consolidated areas of Veliko Tarnovo, Gabrovo, Pleven, Sofia-city, Sofia-region, Targovishte, Haskovo and Dobrich. Among the available measures under Water Priority is the development of a regional pre-investment study for the regions of Blagoevgrad, Kyustendil, Lovech, Montana, Pazardzhik, and Razgrad after their consolidation.

Secondly, the Waste Priority will aim to promote the transition to a circular economy based on the efficient use of resources. As part of this, 611,49 million Bulgarian levs (312,5 million euros) will be invested in systems for separate collection and recycling of biodegradable waste, models for optimising the household waste management process, the reclamation of landfills, as well as systems and centres for separate waste collection and preparation for reuse and correction. In addition, more than 348 million euros have been allocated for measures aiming to build or expand systems for separate collection and recycling of the biodegradable waste in municipalities.

Thirdly, with a budget of 259,09 million Bulgarian levs (132,2 million euros), the Biological Diversity Priority will support activities for the development of the Natura 2000 network, improving the nature protection status of natural habitats and species, and for the protection and restoration of ecosystems outside of Natura 2000.

Whilst, the measures under the Risk and Climate Change Priority with a budget of 441.31 million Bulgarian levs (225,1 million euros) will increase the population’s readiness for an adequate response to climate crises and ensure the capacity to fight forest fires; flood and drought risk prevention and management; and for building a National Water Management System in real-time.

Lastly, the reduction of all forms of air pollution remains a top priority in the new Environment Operational Program. Over 773,47 million Bulgarian levs (394,88 million euros) will be invested in measures aiming to reduce harmful emissions from domestic heating and transport. This includes the free replacement of solid fuel heating devices with ecological alternatives for households to tackle secondary dust generation, improving the monitoring of air quality, as well as creating a National network of experts on air quality monitoring.

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