STRABAG in Banpotoc, Romania: from operations of low social responsibility standard to responsible rehabilitation
What was is the challenge?
Fill-material is a normal part of making a motorway. Getting the required permits is also, along with engaging beforehand with those affected. A leading Austrian construction company (STRABAG) commissioned to build a highway in Transylvania had some problems with this part of an otherwise well-planned and implemented construction project. In August 2011, the company found itself quarrying without an environmental permit 100m from the nearest home in a small village in Hunedoara county, Romania, to supply fill for its project. This work caused 24 / 24 hours noise and significant dust pollution, not to mention unplanned land use and landscape degradation. The locals found out about it once the bulldozers arrived. Did such disruption to the local community have to happen?
What solution was adopted?
astoneco has a training centre in the area, and was asked by the locals to help address the issues. The works were already underway and had the support of the national government, the political parties and much of the local media. Therefore, this was a ‘minimise the harm’ exercise and ‘let’s get a commitment and resource a plan for a responsible closure’. The solution adopted was:
- the creation of a legally registered community-based organisation ‘Banpotoc Community Association’ to help empower the community’s voice,
- holding the international company accountable for the sustainability of their local operations, through communication with management (both in the Romanian subsidiary and in the Austrian mother-company), the relevant local and national authorities, and through opening discussions at industry and society level (conferences and media releases in Bucharest, Vienna and with international human rights bodies), and
- establishing trust and understanding between community members, local authorities and the Company, setting the scene for negotiating a win-win way out of the situation.
After some time, the Company acknowledged the impact created locally by the quarrying works. It then embarked on a partnership with the Town Hall and the Banpotoc Community Association to co-design and implement a rehabilitation and compensation process. The result was a mini win-win solution, namely:
- the rehabilitation of the hillside with the required earthworks including 3000 trucks of topsoil, grass and tree planting provided by the company – this included the development of a partnership with the Retezatu National Park to develop and monitor the trees / biodiversity / parkland area,
- landscaping of the site to include areas for a football pitch, an outdoor concert venue, nature visiting and grazing,
- creation of a community park in the centre of Banpotoc village, including landscaping and furniture provided by the company,
- a partnership between the company and the Town Hall to improve the quality of village roads,
- a commitment by the Town Hall, the Association and community members to maintain the resulting public areas.