Cities must continually adapt to accommodate rapidly growing urban populations, address the challenges of climate change, and manage limited resources. Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, is actively working towards transforming itself into a sustainable, modern European metropolis with a strong emphasis on environmental protection. This commitment is exemplified by a significant initiative to safeguard the city’s environment through the construction of a wastewater treatment facility. This plant will extend sanitation services to more than half a million residents while curbing pollution in the Vardar River, North Macedonia’s longest river.
In Skopje, the waters of this prominent river, which flows through the country’s capital, have not undergone proper treatment until now. Within the sewerage network managed by PE Water Supply and Sewage, wastewater is discharged at multiple points along both the left and right banks of the Vardar River. While there is some level of control and initial treatment for these discharges, they ultimately find their way directly into the Vardar River.
Mrs. Kaja Shukova, the Minister of Environment and Physical Planning of North Macedonia, highlights the critical significance of constructing a treatment plant for the City of Skopje. She emphasizes that this has been, and continues to be, one of the most pressing matters for not only the Ministry and the Government but, above all, for the citizens and their health and well-being. Minister Shukova notes, “For many years, we have been working diligently to establish the necessary conditions for the realization of this vital and highly significant infrastructure project.”
During its preparatory phase, the project has received valuable technical assistance grants from several esteemed institutions, including the European Investment Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Western Balkans Investment Framework, and the French government. This support reflects Team Europe’s unwavering commitment to North Macedonia. The primary objective of this assistance is to address capacity limitations within local partners, enhancing their capabilities in the planning, operation, and maintenance of investment projects.
The Skopje water treatment plant is designed to serve 650,000 equivalent inhabitants. The construction phase is anticipated to span three years, followed by a two-year trial period dedicated to testing the treatment plant’s functionality and training the personnel responsible for its operation. The facility will span an area of 13 hectares, situated in the municipality of Gazi Baba, on the left bank of the Vardar River in the Trubarevo area. The project is a collaborative effort involving PE Water Supply and Sewage – Skopje, the City of Skopje, the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning, and the Ministry of Finance. Once construction is complete, the Wastewater Treatment Plant – Skopje will become the property of PE Water Supply and Sewage – Skopje.
The project will unfold in two distinct phases. The initial phase encompasses pre-treatment and biological treatment of wastewater until at least 2035, while the subsequent phase will focus on the removal of nitrogen and phosphorus from wastewater flowing into the Vardar River, to be completed no later than 2045. Upon the treatment plant’s full operation, approximately 74.7% of the nation’s required wastewater treatment capacity will be met by 2027.
To bolster this endeavor, the European Union has extended a substantial €70 million grant via the Western Balkans Investment Framework. This allocation marks the most significant contribution ever made by the international financial institution within the country’s water sector. The EU’s financial support is poised to dramatically expedite project preparations and execution, ultimately resulting in the purification of 90% of the waste water in the City of Skopje and 74.7% of the nation’s waste waters . This project seamlessly aligns with the EU Economic and Investment Plan, the Global Gateway strategy, and the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans.
Moreover, the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia has facilitated the financing of the treatment plant’s construction through a loan obtained from two EU banks, the European Investment Bank (EIB) €68 million and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) €58 million. Minister Shukova underscores the pivotal role played by the EU in the implementation of this critically important capital infrastructure project. She notes, “I can confidently assert that without access to these European financial mechanisms, reaching this final stage—the construction of the station—would have been exceedingly challenging. We deeply appreciate the EU’s support in this regard, as well as in other processes through which we strive to attain European standards.” The treatment plant is set to employ cutting-edge technology, the latest equipment, and energy-efficient practices. Thermal energy generated by the station will be harnessed for sludge incineration in the accelerator. The project also encompasses additional facets such as technical assistance and staff training to ensure the installation’s sustainability.
About the project
As the EU climate bank, the European Investment Bank finances €3 billion in water infrastructure every year, with a focus on water security and climate change adaptation. Around 30% of the bank’s water projects are outside the European Union, often in some of the world’s poorest and most drought-stricken countries. In 2022, we have invested about €2.17 billion in the sector, which improved sanitation for 10.8 million people and enabled better access to safe drinking water for 25.4 million people.
Photo credits: EIB
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