Help in the Pipeline: The EU Flood Recovery Programme Launches a Project to Build Back Better a Damaged Culvert in Cesinovo-Oblesovo

Apr 25, 2016

The Municipality of Cesinovo-Oblesevo suffered severe damage from flooding in February last year when the Bregalnica River reached record levels. Located in the east of the country in the heart of the Bregalnica river basin, the municipality has continues to suffer from damaged infrastructure.

Many of the severest consequences of the flooding have arisen from damage to what might at first seem a minor part of the infrastructure—an underground concrete pipe, or culvert, that broke under the impact of heavy rain.

Despite being only a few metres in length, the culvert is essential to enable traffic to flow from several villages in the municipality to the nearby towns of Probishtip and Kocani.

With this route impeded, many local businesses risk big economic losses. One of these is the Osogovo Milk Company, one of the country’s largest makers of dairy products, which is located near the culvert at the entrance of the village of Sokolarci.

The manager of Osogovo Milk, Zoran Trpeski, stresses the urgency of addressing the problem. “Our company needs to collect milk from local farms each day and we cannot wait for tomorrow. Twelve vehicles, all with several tons of cargo, pass over the damaged culvert several times per day. They take this risk because the bypass road is some 20 kilometres longer, which involves considerable expense for local businesspeople.”

A temporary solution has been introduced in the form of an improvised pipe, but many local residents and businesses point out the dangers of continuing to allow heavy traffic to cross the makeshift pipe, warning that it may collapse at any moment.

"The culvert has to be repaired urgently," says Igorce Efremov, owner of the Eco-Grain rice trading company. "We are purchasing rice from local producers and our vehicles pass over the bridge frequently. Empty vans may not be a problem, but when a vehicle is heavily loaded it is dangerous.”

Buses, tractors, agricultural machinery, cars, small trucks and vans take the risk of crossing over the temporary culvert each day. School busses and vans cross more than two times a day, often filled with employees, mostly women working in the textile factories in the surrounding cities.

The damaged culvert is also a major danger and obstruction for the passage of emergency vehicles such as ambulances and fire engines.

According to the mayor of the municipality, Kostadin Lickov, there is no suitable alternative to the bridge that passes through the village of Sokolarci and connects to the entire regional road. He worries, furthermore, that the problems arising from the culvert will encourage depopulation.

“As well as the consequences for business, there are also demographic consequences,” he says. “In recent years the villages of Sokolarci and Spanchevo, both of which have more than a thousand inhabitants, have experienced a slight increase in their birth rates, which is a rare case in this region. The damaged culvert hinders their travel to schools and workplaces and makes the residents consider seeking a better life in the towns."

Experts point out that the discharge capacity of the temporary culvert is insufficient, reducing the flow of water and further exacerbating the risk of flooding and damages.

Fortunately, however, the European Union Flood Recovery Programme has now approved a multi-million-euro project to support the country in rebuilding critical transport infrastructure in the regions most affected by floods, including Cesinovo-Oblesevo.

The old culvert will be restored within seven months, at a cost of EUR 148,850.00, in line with the principle of ‘building back better’, with improved design standards making it much more resilient to flooding.

The project in the Municipality of Cesinovo-Oblesevo is one of eight transport-related projects in the country funded by the EU Flood Recovery Programme. All of the projects will be implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Secretariat for European Integration, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy, the Ministry of Transport and Communications, the Public Enterprise for State Roads and the local governments of the affected municipalities.