Slovakia said it intends to invest in Belarus’ power industry and waste management, Ambassador Jozef Migas said at the meeting with Grodno Oblast Governor Vladimir Kravtsov. “This pertains to the construction of hydroelectric power stations on the Neman and the Western Dvina. We are ready to invest in these projects,” Migas said. Investment in the construction of a 20 mW hydro power plant will cost about EUR130m.
Slovakia is also ready to invest in the area of waste management, including separate waste collection, sorting and processing. Grodno Oblast reportedly suggested Slovakian firms take part in a project to produce RDF fuel in Grodno. In agriculture, Slovaks are searching for a partner in Belarus to produce wines. The agrarian practices of Grodno Oblast are also of high interest. Kravtsov and Migas talked over possible cooperation between the countries and their regions also in the tourism sector.
The EU finances the project as a part of national program for environmental protection in Belarus. Belarus generates around 30 million tons of waste annually, out of which household waste makes up 3 million tons. Each year, the volume grows by 20%. Existing waste recycling stations have the capacity to recycle only 12% of household waste, while in the EU the rate of waste recycling is around 60%. The rest is dumped into landfills and/or buried. The existing landfills in Belarus often do not satisfy the basic standards.
The absence of equipment for recycling various post-consumer waste constitutes another problem, as the state has no resources to invest in this area.
Several foreign investors have already established their business in this area in Belarus, such as the Swiss company TDF Ecotech AG, the Swedish company Vireo Energy, Austria’s Strabag and the German company Remondis. However, they work only in several urban centers, while most towns have no prospects for developing a sustainable waste management system.
Because of the enormous dependence of Belarusian industry and households on Russian oil and gas imports, the problem of alternative energy remains crucial for modernizing Belarus. Although the Lukashenka regime enjoys cheap tariffs on Russian energy in comparison to its neighbors who are less loyal to Vladimir Putin, prices are rising and it has become harder to make deals with the Russians.
The program aims to develop all reasonable sources of energy for Belarus, from peat and wood to wind energy, geothermal energy and biogas. However, while extraction of peat is a well-known to Belarusian industry since Soviet times and does not require large investments, wind power still needs significant investment and takes much longer to become profitable.
In 2012, the German company Enertrag AG signed a EUR360m agreement with the government to build a wind farm of 50 turbines in the Dziaržynsk district near Minsk. But the Ministry of Defense banned the project on the grounds that the farm will interfere with work of its anti-aircraft systems. The offended Germans, who had invested quite a sum at that point, decided to pull out of all of the deals it had with the Belarusians.
River pollution and water management
Most of the rivers in Belarus are polluted with nitrogen and phosphorus compounds below or above the so-called “maximum allowable content.” The main reason for this is sewage water that is being discharged from urban centers. Some 45% of rivers of Belarus make up a part of the Baltic Sea ecosystem, and their pollution directly impacts the countries that border the Baltic Sea.