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EBRD finances water and wastewater upgrades in Bulgaria

By Olga Rosca

  • Support for water companies as pandemic sheds new light on importance of access to water
  • Improvements aimed at saving water and treating higher volumes of wastewater
  • EBRD joining forces with EU to bring Bulgaria’s water system in line with EU standards

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Union are intensifying their effort to deliver a direct impact on people’s lives by financing upgrades to water supply and wastewater systems in Bulgaria’s Stara Zagora and Vratsa regions.

The water and wastewater utility in Stara Zagora, which serves a population of approximately 326,000 across 12 towns, is investing €52 million in the modernisation of its operations. The investment programme is financed largely by EU grants and the EBRD is providing a €3.7 million loan from its own resources, complemented by a €2.4 million loan from the EU’s European structural and investment funds (ESIF).

At the same time, the regional utility that serves the cities of Vratsa, Byala Slatina, Mezdra and Kozloduy is implementing a €21.3 million investment programme. The improvements are financed with EU grants, the state budget and a €2.7 million loan split equally between the EBRD and ESIF.

Both utilities aim to raise their operations to the standard of EU directives, save more drinking water and treat greater volumes of wastewater before discharge.

Both investments are under the Bulgarian ESIF Water Sector Financing Framework, which co-finances strategic investments in water and wastewater infrastructure. To date, financing committed under the framework tops €20 million, of which €11 million comes from the EBRD and the remainder is co-financing provided by the Fund Manager of Financial Instruments in Bulgaria (FMFIB).

FMFIB, a fund of funds, entrusted the EBRD to manage up to €115 million of ESIF and the national budget allocated under the Operational Programme Environment 2014-2020. Blended with additional bank resources, this unlocks about €200 million for the development of the local water and wastewater sector.

The latest financing comes amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which puts enormous pressure on providers of vital infrastructure to deliver essential services while facing financial constraints. Support for infrastructure providers is a central pillar of the EBRD’s response to the crisis.

The EBRD responded to the coronavirus pandemic with record investment of €11 billion in 2020 through 411 projects, addressing the urgent needs of the economies where it invests. In Bulgaria, the Bank provided financing worth €100 million last year. To date, it has committed more than €4 billon in almost 270 investment projects in the country.

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