Arifi: We require punishment for environmental pollutants
I think we are still far from what my administration and I have set as a target in terms of the cleanliness of the city, but we are very far from where we started a year and a half ago
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Inbox7: Mrs. Arifi welcome and thank you very much for this interview.
Arifi: Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity, welcome to municipality of Tetovo.
Inbox7: First question I want to ask you refers to the pollution of the city of Tetovo, a problem that has been affecting citizens since last year when a protest was organized by the citizens of Tetovo to express dissatisfaction with this phenomenon. You know that October 31st is the deadline when the plant Jugohrom must meet environmental standards set by the required system. Although this is a problem of central government, do you as local government have any strategy for this problem which affects the people you manage?
Arifi: Of course we are aware and concerned about this problem, we are in constant contact with the Ministry of Environment, which is actually supposed to be the executor of this obligation, and from the contacts our impression is that the ministry will adhere to this date. Of course we as municipal government try to take our measures that are the responsibility of the municipality in terms of reducing pollution and hopefully reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by Jugohrom will definitely change the overall environment when it comes to pollution air.
Reduction of Jugohrom greenhouse gas emissions changes the environment
Inbox7: In your election platform you specified that one of the key priorities of your administration will be changing Tetovo from a waste place in the richest place in Macedonia, but more than a year passed and the city continues to have a big problem with waste. Do you have a specific plan for long-term solution to this problem?
Arifi: Sure, but I will have to remind your viewers once again that since I became a mayor, we as administration have started from the position of a city where the waste had not been collected, but burnt, thus creating an additional problem for the citizens of Tetovo. Normally, we managed to completely prevent this process and what is true is that now the waste is collected every night and it is not burnt, but taken to landfill Rusino. I would like to inform you and the citizens of Tetovo that the municipality of Tetovo a year and a half ago, when I became in charge of it, had only one and a half garbage truck because the whole machinery was almost destroyed and out of use. Today the municipality of Tetovo, based on fiscal policies which are positive and cautious, has managed to provide 14 garbage trucks and as a result we have regular waste collection. As far as I am informed, when we came to the municipality of Tetovo, the streets had never been washed and we do regular washing and sweeping the streets. Last year we cleaned river beds and irrigation canals and at the same time we increased green space, because we believe that they contribute a lot to prevention of pollution. Is it enough? For me it is not, because I think we are still far from what my administration and I have set as a target in terms of cleanliness of the city, but we are very far from where we started a year and a half and in this occasion I would like to invite members of the media, citizens, to treat the environment with full responsibility, because this city does not belong to me, it belongs to everyone and if we want to make a city that would breathe like the city, then each of us should bear responsibility, and in the meantime we will strengthen all our inspection services to inspect, even to punish for environmental pollution.
I found the municipality in poor condition
Inbox7: You mentioned air pollution, waste, and now let’s return to the problem which is actually very old and all previous mayors had a problem to find a solution to it, that is drinking water in Tetovo. Although Tetovo is a city that runs at the foot of the Sharr Mountains and has its own water springs, it constantly has problems. I know you have mentioned several times that you have a project for this issue, but is there an opportunity to tell us once again how is the implementation phase to finally solve this problem going on?
Arifi: Upon our arrival at the municipality, also one of the major legal issues was the one of lack of good legal access in terms of access to water. My approach was, as it is a capital project, to provide funds from the state budget, because the budget has solved problems across the country so Tetovo should not be an exception. As a result of the rapid reaction we managed to gather documents for redesign, which means with the budget for 2014 39 million denars were provided and the rest will be provided with the budget for 2015, which is scheduled to close as a plan and as a concept. From what I saw on the spot and from the reports I received onsite, it is being intensively worked on and the time is used. According to our forecasts, the projection of 39 million denars will be closed in view of this year and we have a strategy to spend the money and get on with other means. At the same time, through the European Investment Bank we provided a credit line to the filter line given the fact that the current solution in terms of water is that we receive surface water from the river Studena Reka, which should be filtered. According to our estimate, over a period of 15 months we will have to finish the pipes and the filter station so that the citizens have no problems. I want to emphasize that within a year and a half we have made more than 150 improvements for water and those fixes helped us to keep the water level stable unlike other years. Apart from the fact that the climate helped us, this helped us too and I am very pleased that we have managed to return the project of German bank KfW for new meters, which will also reduce uncontrolled spending water by the citizens.
Infrastructure, water and lack of space in Tetovo
Inbox7: Another problem that our city is facing is the streets. It is not even planned the streets to have as many vehicles as we have. We have a shortage of parking spaces. You started the initiative to make a few parking spaces with payment and stopped, can you explain why? We would like to ask whether you intend to continue with this initiative or you have a concrete plan how to solve the traffic problem citizens face in summer and in winter, when people return from abroad, and also this problem exists throughout the year.
Arifi: Generally I think the problem of the city urban plan is lack of space for all these vehicles, but also problem is our general mentality that we want to go everywhere by car and I think that is a big problem. Actually we are working towards solving the parking problem and the decision will come in several stages. First using the existing parking lots, the project we have already prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Interior regarding the determination of the first zone parking area, because according to the Law on traffic we should submit a project proposal to the Ministry of Interior, and we will need to define the first zone and then other zones. According to the information we have, this project is considered to exceed the lines, meets conditions and normally in the future will continue to be considered for the construction of public parking lots. The policies of the municipality of Tetovo will be very strict and in fact we are strict in terms of tall buildings when it comes to planning parking lots, because what is planned as a parking lot, before technical use needs to be a parking. One of the problems that the city has now is that all tall structures actually do not have (except for some minor exceptions) parking provided, because it makes sense that if you build 40 flats you should consider where 40 cars will be parked. Realistically, it is a question that we think to resolve within the term, always to reduce traffic congestion and create opportunities for using other transport vehicles, not just cars.
Inbox7: One very positive project is the investment in the road to the health resort. If you can tell us more about it, we know that it is halfway done, what is the next plan? Are you planning to make another investment in this area that many people use and have you thought of banning the vehicles from going to the water because they pollute the environment.
Arifi: Certainly, we are working intensively in terms of road infrastructure in Tetovo, especially Tetovo surroundings which we believe can be used for recreation. And one of them, because there are actually a few, is the road to Selce, the road to the health resort and the funds we had were right for that space that we have arranged so far and it was worked according to the standard, wide streets, sidewalks, lighting, with all this money. We certainly prepare applications to get to funding in 2015 and we are certainly willing to participate with our budget in order to complete it so that citizens can use it with different vehicles. We were also considering a traffic ban, but I think that we should not take this step until we finish the project and then in cooperation with citizens to find ways to have less pollution and more opportunities for citizens to use it.
Inbox7: Penultimate question, always within the municipality, what Mrs. Teuta Arifi does to strengthen Tetovo women, can you share a concrete plan with us.
Arifi: The policies of our personnel are primarily policies that reflect our approach to women equality. I can say that in my management team women hold important positions ranging from secretary of the municipality and to other equally important positions. 40% of the management team, under the jurisdiction of the municipality, such as school principals are women because I believe in their work and the right approach and seriousness towards work. We have some other projects that relate to women. We are together with support from USAID to strengthen women in entrepreneurship in business activities, activities that one way or another around the world belong to men and we are ready to support projects aimed at more women to create jobs. With USAID we also have another project about rural women, because we feel that their enhancement is very important. We have supported and we are still willing to support a center for collection of products, in particular mountain products, because they are collected by these women and this center will create financial stability. Normally with UNICEF we started a program for children aged 3-5 in order to open a day care center in all mountain areas, we completed it in Selce and now in the others where municipality Tetovo provides employment for people, and UNICEF arranges the space and it helps women to have more time on the site. We also managed to get another project with the EU regarding women mayors, so we managed to make one (networking) connection of six other municipalities that are part of the EU and others that are candidates for the EU, and we also want to make projects with them that relate to women, and we are also awaiting for the response to a project of the fourth component of the EU regarding the inclusion of women.
Inbox7: Thank you very much for your answers and the information you gave us. Do you have a message for the viewers?
Arifi: Thank you very much for the opportunity and I would like to invite everyone to take part in our projects, our activities, because it is common civic interests and we are all citizens of one country and it is important for all of us how we live our lives. We have also opened the project for intervention through UNDP to convey the demands to the municipality and of course every second week citizens have the opportunity to meet their mayor and express their demands. I think the media should be an inherent part of our work.