In January 2014, the Swiss Government Confederation approved a grant of about CHF 21 million to finance a Wastewater Treatment Plant in the city of Kocani in the eastern part of North Macedonia. Besides the planning and construction of the Wastewater Treatment Plant and related sewerage infrastructure, the project comprises corporate development support for Kocani’s public utility “Vodovod” as well as a public awareness raising campaign. Six years later, the utility is operating the Wastewater Treatment Plant with some ongoing support of the Swiss implementation consultant (EBP) and the discharge of untreated wastewater into the environment has been drastically reduced.
The Kocani Wastewater Treatment Project has been thoroughly planned and designed in a way that combines the specific local needs and capacities with modern concepts and technologies. The conventional wastewater collection and treatment system has been complemented by a solar power plant and a co-generation of biogas that cover around two-third of the power demand by renewable energy and thus considerably reduce the operation cost. In addition, the plant comprises a comprehensive sludge treatment, i.e. a composting of the dewatered sewage sludge together with straw from the surrounding rice fields. This does not only offer an alternative to the devastating annual burning of the rice fields but also further reduces the greenhouse gas emissions from the plant. The project also includes the necessary measures to ensure know-how transfer and to increase the utility’s revenues that are required to cover the cost for the proper operation and maintenance of the plant and to eventually renew the plant in the future.
The Director of Kocani’s public utility “Vodovod”, Andrej Kirov, says that the adapted project design and the use of the state-of-the-art environmental technologies have set a base for Vodovod Kocani to become a modern water utility. “There are many benefits for the company and the citizens from the realization of the Wastewater Treatment Plant project. The composting of the dewatered sewage sludge, renewable energy, and the upgrading of the user base of services, are just a few excellent results. In the following years, we will work on the reduction of water infiltration from the irrigation system of agricultural areas, and we will prepare a detailed project for the future connection of the wastewater drainage system from the municipality of Vinica to the Wastewater Treatment Plant Kocani which will contribute even more in the sustainable development of the region,” says Kirov.
The project has significantly reduced the discharge of untreated wastewater into the environment. Indeed, after only one year of operation of the Wastewater Treatment Plant Kocani, clear improvements of the aquatic flora and fauna have been observed in river Bregalnica. For instance, a visible upgrading of the fish and dragonfly populations could be reported and according to the Macedonian Ecological Society some of the newly reported species, such as the Danube barbel fish (Barbus balcanicus), are of European significance. Besides, there are socio-economic benefits, e.g. for the rice farmers who have access to cleaner water for irrigation or the local industry that has access to wastewater treatment and thus their products better comply with international environmental standards.
The Mayor of the Municipality of
Kocani, Nikolcho Ilijev, warmly welcomed the project, pointing out that the new
Plant not only benefits the health and economy of the region but also helps in
preserving the ecosystem of the River Bregalnica. “Thanks to the Wastewater Treatment Plant Kocani, there is no more feces pollution in Kochanska River and the
River Bregalnica. The return of flora
and fauna is slowly becoming possible, especially for certain species that have
not been seen for decades. This is just an indication of the importance of a
clean and healthy environment and another incentive to continue to work
diligently and responsibly to address this issue. As local self-government, we
are more than aware that this process is not over, and we must continue to work
to complete the entire process of wastewater treatment in the region,” says
Due to the good collaboration and dedicated project partners, the first phase of this important infrastructure project could be completed on time and with good quality. The Deputy Minister of Environment and Physical Planning, Jani Makraduli, highlights the fact that the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Kocani is an example of how future Wastewater Treatment Plants in the county should be built. “This is an example of the use of renewable sources, an example of the use of processing of waste, an example of a circular economy. Environmental protection through wastewater treatment is one of the top priorities of our Government. With the help of our partners, such as the Government of the Swiss Confederation, the percentage of the population covered by treatment plants in our country will be much higher than many current EU members at the time of their accession,” says the Deputy Minister, Makraduli.
To benefit from the full capacity of the plant and to strengthen the sustainability of the Wastewater Treatment Plant operation, the project partners decided to extend the project until 2022 and to prepare the connection of the neighbouring Municipality of Vinica. The vision of a regional Wastewater Treatment Plant cleaning the wastewater of up to 65’000 people living in Kocani and Vinica is planned to be realized in the near future!