HALO Foundation 2019
Maritsa River is the biggest river in Bulgaria and the purity of its waters and shores and the biodiversity in and around it, is of key importance for the entire Thracian lowland. But unfortunately, the locals still take the river and its inhabitants for granted and are not aware of the damage they cause with pollution and poaching. That is why we plan to conduct a broad information campaign, cleaning actions and mechanism for cooperation between citizens and institutions in Haskovo District.
Haskovo District, south central Bulgaria
The Maritsa River and the surrounding wetlands are heavily polluted with household waste, and biodiversity is being severely tested by poachers. A large part of the inhabitants of the settlements along the river live in conditions of extreme poverty, do not trust the institutions, do not consider it necessary and important to observe the prohibitions imposed by law for pollution and poaching (while the institutions do not care about their violation), they have lost their civic consciousness and exploit the river without thinking about the consequences of their actions. The large amount of waste on the banks and in the water is a threat to biodiversity, leads to congestion of riverbeds and becomes a threat to locals - a prerequisite for the flooding of agricultural land and even settlements
There are citizens in the region who are worried about the condition of the river, but have no idea how they can be useful. Other people just need information to understand how fatal the consequences of pollution and poaching can be, including for them. That is why we plan to conduct a broad information campaign to raise citizens' awareness. We plan to create mechanisms for civic participation and cooperation with institutions in favor of the protection of the Maritsa River and its adjacent wetlands by creating a group on social networks and opening a telephone line to report contaminated sites / poachers. We plan to ensure the participation of active local citizens in working groups with institutions at the local level and to conduct a series of clean-up actions.
The first target group are the residents along the Maritsa River. To reach them we will use the assistance of mayors, local formal and informal leaders. Another target group are fishermen. We will cover them by seeking the assistance of the managers of hunting and fishing associations, NGOs and fishing shops. Both groups will be involved in the information campaign, and during the meetings they will have the opportunity to express opinions and suggestions on what measures should be taken to make the river protection actions more sustainable. The most active representatives of these groups will be involved in working meetings with the institutions, in the management of the telephone line and the groups for reporting pollution or poaching, as well as in conducting cleaning actions.
We will start with preliminary meetings with institutions, NGOs, fishing shops, informal leaders in villages along the riverside and Haskovo to discuss opportunities for cooperation. Information materials and a Facebook page with information about the project will be developed. We will organize a broad information campaign: series of information meetings in settlements and an online campaign to raise public awareness of the risks of river pollution and poaching and to engage citizens with solving these problems. A Facebook group and a telephone line will be set up to report alerts to polluted sites and poachers. We will form working groups of institutions and citizens and carry out joint actions to catch poachers and clean up contaminated areas of Maritza river and wetlands.
If we get the opportunity to implement this project, the Maritsa River and the wetlands around it will be cleaned of household waste, and poaching will be limited. Residents of settlements along the river and fishermen (who are the most common polluters and poachers) will be informed about the damage from pollution and poaching (danger of floods, disturbance of the ecological balance and destruction of species) and included in the cleaning actions. Increasing their sensitivity to environmental protection and involving them in real action will have a long-term effect on the whole region. The participation of all stakeholders in the working groups will provide an opportunity to apply a model of joint work of institutions and citizens, the benefit of which is for the whole society.
We believe that democracy is not just about voting in elections. Democracy means, above all, active civic participation in all spheres of life. And it is provoked by initiatives like ours.
In Bulgaria, people are used to complaining and blaming the authorities for all their problems. They do not approve of the work of the institutions, but they also do not look for options on how to change the situation, because they do not believe that their opinion matters. Initiatives like ours do not just solve a specific problem such as the pollution of a river in this case. They serve as an example to ordinary people that being an active citizen, caring for the future of your community, looking for a way to work together with institutions (rather than endless opposition) is worth it.
All members of our team love nature and have taken for their personal cause its protection. The waters of Maritsa River and terrains around it are home to many endangered species. It is very sad to see how every year the populations of fish in the river decrease and the islands and shores become clogged with waste. It's scary to look at old shoes, tractor tires, bags of construction waste, beer cans and plastic bottles entwined in the branches of fallen trees. The clean-up actions we've been tirelessly carrying out in recent years are not enough to solve the problem permanently. Only a change in the attitudes and habits of those who pollute the river and working with institutions can lead to lasting results. This is the basis of our motivation to implement this project.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs - 31000 EUR;
Materials for info meetings and clean up actions - 10000 EUR;
Travel costs - 4000 EUR;
Marketing & PR - 4000 EUR;
Office & other expenses - 500 EUR
We will be glad to receive feedback from others on the platform on how they feel about our idea, whether anyone has implemented such an initiative and whether they can share experiences. We are also open to suggestions for improving our project proposal.