Chisinau has very outdated waste and storm water sewerage systems. The repair of these systems was impossible because of authorities’ incompetence to access a loan of 65 million euros that would have allowed the renovation of the collecting system. At the same time, one of the municipal companies that manages storm waters sewerage systems, Exdrupo ME, was involved in several corruption scandals, and Apa-Canal Chisinau missed a loan of 65 million euros for the rehabilitation of wastewater sewage systems.
Whenever there is a downpour in Chisinau every time the city is flooded. On May 31, there fell 63 liters of water per square meter, given that the monthly average is 71 liters per square meter, informs the State Hydrometeorological Service (SHS). The most affected are Albisoara and Yuri Gagarin streets from the Railway Station area. Albisoara Street is flooded because of the Bic River, while Yuri Gagarin Street because of poor systems of rainwater drains.
11 areas are at risk of flooding
According to Vadim Branzaniuc, head of the Chisinau City Hall Public Relations Department, floods of May 31 in Albisoara and Ismail streets occurred because the water level in the river Bic exceeded its level. The water level rose because of the heavy rains that resulted in 63 liters per square meter. According to Branzaniuc, the bed of the Bic River is not sufficiently deep. It takes time and much money to deepen it. The official also pointed out that this time, the Railway Station area was less flooded in comparison with the previous years, when the water level reached the first floors of the houses and penetrated into the basements. In addition, heavy rains flooded the city on June 14, the day when a woman died because of the tree that collapsed on her during the storm.
There are 11 areas with high risk of flooding in Chisinau. The deputy mayor of Chisinau Nistor Grozavu estimated that fitting these areas with rainwater sewerage systems would cost about 150 million lei. The streets Albisoara, Calea Iesilor, Ion Inculet, Mesterul Manole, Uzinelor, Muncesti, Pan Hallipa and Ismail are among the risky areas. Another major problem is that no streets perpendicular to Stefan cel Mare Boulevard have adequate sewerage sanitation, which leads to release of wastewaters in the river Bic. In addition, the neighborhood Posta Veche and Ghioceilor str. next to Durlesti are also areas with high risk of flooding. In the case of Durlesti neighborhood, it is necessary to increase the pond in the village of Gratiesti that collects rainwater in the neighborhood.
A portion of 3.6 km of the Bic riverbed was cleaned in 2014. The city allocated 3,000,000 lei from its budget for this purpose, nearly a million for a kilometer in Albisoara Street. Even so, the floods could not be stopped.
Railway Station area was repaired in 2011
Even if millions of lei were spent to repair the rainwater drainage systems, floods have caused a run of ill luck in Chisinau. In August 2011, Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca announced that the Railway Station Alley would forever escape floods. Five years ago, they put into operation two channels on Tabacaria Veche and Haltei streets, as well as a water collector in front of the Railway Station. A year later, in July 2012, Dorin Chirtoaca boldly announced that Chisinau got rid of floods forever. Approximately 740,000 euros were spent for this project. The works were executed by the municipal enterprise Exdrupo.
Lake Ghidighici – another source of danger
In 2015, even the Intelligence and Security Service referred to the danger of flooding in Chisinau. They wrote a letter to President Nicolae Timofti and the acting Prime Minister Gheorghe Brega, saying that Ghidighici Lake Dam does not meet the minimum-security requirements. According to ISS, the mechanism regulating the water level in the lake functions partially, thus the draining process can cause a spontaneous leakage, which will lead to massive floods in Chisinau. The President recorded the notice, but the authorities did not announce any work on the dam of Lake Ghidighici. Immediately after this letter, the interim Prime Minister Gheorghe Brega paid a visit to Lake Ghidighici. The ministerial delegation concluded that locks system is in a relatively good condition and is able to prevent the risk of massive floods. At the same time, the group noted the need to strengthen the dam. Brega said then that the dam will be watched in a non-stop manner by law enforcements and they will allocate 2,600,000 lei to carry out strengthening works.
How does the sewer system in Chisinau function?
It is important to mention that there are two different sewerage systems in Chisinau: wastewater sewage and rainwater sewage. Two different operators manage the two systems. Wastewater sewage is managed by Apa-Canal Chisinau Joint Stock Company, while rainwater sewage system is managed by Exdrupo. The length of sewerage networks managed by Apa-Canal Chisinau is about 1050 km. In addition, there are 1000 km of sewerage networks, which belong to individuals, but in case of malfunction or flooding, Apa-Canal Chisinau manages them, too. At the same time, 80% of the networks directly owned by Apa-Canal Chisinau are worn out because in the past 24 years, most financial resources, allocated by the municipality, were intended for the rehabilitation of water ducts not for all the construction sewerage systems.
65 million euros loan
In addition to the high degree of wear, there are economic agents that, in the absence of a consolidated system of rainwater drainage, discharge wastewater into the sewage system belonging to Apa-Canal Chisinau. In 2012, the French company SEURECA conducted a comprehensive analysis of the sewage system in the city of Chisinau as part of a feasibility study. At that time, Apa-Canal Chisinau was negotiating the financing of a contract, providing for restoration of drinking water and sanitation by allocating a credit of 65 million euros, with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank. The financing program involved the rehabilitation of 205 km of water ducts, more than 3000 connections of residential blocks to sewage systems and rehabilitation of about 15 kilometers of sewerage collectors by December 2018.
It was assumed that after such complex works, sewage system in Chisinau would operate efficiently and the negative effects of heavy rains would considerably decrease. However, because of corruption, incompetence and political interests of certain groups, the authorities missed the credit.
What companies were concerned?
On 22 December 2015, several bids for the execution of works were submitted. 12 companies displayed clear interest for the performance of works, they were from 7 countries: Spain, Romania, Turkey, France, Germany, Bulgaria and Moldova. The winning company had to carry out the works within 540 days. Apa-Canal Chisinau accused the National Agency for Energy Regulation of having missed the tender and the loan, as it did not respect its legal obligations to adjust the tariffs. NAER replied to Apa-Canal Chisinau that actually they were guilty because they acted contrary to the Law on Public Water Supply and Sanitation. The Law provides that Apa-Canal Chisinau has to submit to NAER activity reports that it failed to present. It is the analysis of expenses according to a certain tariff methodology.
Allegedly, a 20% kickback was required
In July 2015, Apa-Canal Chisinau asked NAER to adjust water tariffs as required by external donors, but there was no adjustment. Water tariffs in Chisinau are almost three times lower than in other places in the Republic of Moldova and individuals pay a price three times less than legal entities. 10 years ago, Moldova's foreign partners asked an adjusting of water tariffs in Chisinau, so as the enterprise could establish a financial self-management. Consumers would pay, after the price adjustment, 40% more for the consumed water. Even if the tariff reached 14 lei per cubic meter instead of 9 lei, it would have remained the lowest in the country. The media wrote, based on sources within the city administration and the government, that the loan was missed because of authorities’ incompetence and corruption. Allegedly, high rank officials of the country and of Chisinau administration required a 20% kickback from the winning company for the realization of this project.
Scandals around Exdrupo
Exdrupo, the company that maintains and repairs the rainwater sewage, was involved in several corruption scandals. Efim Cheptanari had been heading the company since 2006. On October 5, 2015, he was arrested on suspicion of embezzlement of 700,000 lei. Allegedly, that money had been stolen from a budget, intended to purchase paving blocks for house yards. Initially, Efim Cheptanari was dismissed by Mayor Dorin Chirtoaca, but he was not arrested. Once the scandal around Efim Cheptanari calmed down, he was appointed deputy director of the organization, and his former subordinate, Stefan Racu was appointed director of the enterprise. Nothing is known about the Cheptanaru case. The fact is that this case came to light in the context of negotiations between DP, LP and LDP, carried out to invest the new Government. For a short time, Cheptanari was under house arrest. So far, no decision on this case has been made.
There were searches in Exdrupo in 2014, when the investigators had suspicions of foreign funds embezzlement in enormous proportions. However, neither after those searches anyone was convicted. Exdrupo is the enterprise that is responsible for all the rainwater sewerage in Chisinau, a system that gives a hardship to residents of Chisinau.