With 23.4 % of its population living below the poverty line in 2016, Bulgaria is the poorest country in the European Union. On the other hand, the country has one of the largest Roma populations in Europe (8,6 % in 2014). The situation of these communities crystallizes numerous socio-economic issues in the country. This is a political argument for the political parties seeking responsibilities for the crisis. Political pressure has recently gone one step up when some parties have resumed debate over the problem of illegal access to water by the Roma population living near areas of relegation. Thus, these communities are constantly stigmatized and marginalized. In Sofia, the majority of Roma population has been concentrated, for decades, in specific areas around the city. Living conditions have deteriorated throughout the years, and these neighborhoods are now excluded from urban development policies. This issue has been recognized by the European Union which made the integration of minorities -for countries such as Bulgaria and Romania- one of the conditions to join the Union.
WATER AND LIFE BULGARIA (W&L) is an NGO created by Eau et Vie. It has a foundation status and is state-approved. W&L’s missions are to incubate and develop a sustainable service to access water, sanitation and basic services, to organize awareness-raising sessions on hygiene, environment, fire prevention, firefighting and community strengthening. Finally, it is responsible for advocating with local authorities as well as raising funds locally for the proper functioning of projects.
Project historyIn the context of the partnership between Veolia and Eau et Vie, the idea of a common project in Bulgaria was born to improve Roma’s communities living conditions in Sofia’s poor neighborhoods. For a few years now, water operator -Sofiyska Voda- has been thinking about solutions to solve the water issue and the financial losses resulting from it: a real social, economic and technical challenge. In this context, a first Eau et Vie prospecting mission was carried out in 2016, in Sofia, confirming the poor living conditions in these neighborhoods, the needs for the communities to access the essential services on a long-term basis, as well as the involvement of potential stakeholders. The conclusions of this mission led us to conduct a feasibility study. The overall goal of the study was to assess the possibility to implement an experimental project, based on Eau et Vie method of approach to develop a global support system to improve the living conditions in the identified areas by supplying a legal and sustainable access to water and sanitation.
Current projectOnce the results of the feasibility study were analyzed, Eau et vie decided to launch an experimental project in Bulgaria. The Filipovtsi area on the outskirts of the capital city has been selected to house this project. Late 2018, the local NGO Water and Life Bulgaria was created and the local team began to be constituted, with the hiring of a new agency manager, a field coordinator, investigators and encoders. Baseline surveys on living conditions, access to water and essential services and community needs have thus started, allowing to adapt the proposed services to the closest needs of the population. The pre-operational phase of the project is being conducted, implying the partners’ mobilization, negotiations with local authorities and finalization of the intervention model definition.
Keys figures - Ongoing project
Project in Bulgaria:
- Filipovtsi (Sofia) precarious urban district, inhabited by a Roma-identifying community where 2,000 households live out of 7,000 inhabitants
Access to drinking water:
- The identified district’s lot belongs to the city and most households are not registered
- To this day, inhabitants are illegally connected to the local water distribution network
- Quality and pressure of these connections are not satisfactory
- Households have no water meters and receive no bills
- Currently, houses in the identified district are connected to an old sanitation network with no maintenance
- The current system is often blocked and then flows onto the uncobbled streets
- Wastewater is directly being dumped into the river
- Pre-operational phase, with the goal to design an experimental project in the Filipovtsi district