Serbia hires China’s CRBC to build a functional sewerage system for €3.2bn

Promising a "modern, functional state" and an end to its vexed sewage problem, the government of Serbia has awarded €3.2bn worth of contracts to China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) to build wastewater treatment plants in 65 municipalities across the country.

An historic infrastructure programme for the country of 7 million, it sees CRBC, a subsidiary of state-owned giant, China Communications Construction Company (CCCC), design and build associated sewerage networks and pumping stations as well as rehabilitating or building six regional landfills.

Some 90% of Serbia’s sewage goes untreated, with the rivers Danube and Sava receiving raw sewage from its two biggest cities, Belgrade and Novi Sad.

In 2018, the country’s Fiscal Council told the government it should be spending 1.3% of GDP to tackle "devastating" environmental problems like sewage, or risk falling foul of EU environmental standards as it negotiates for EU membership with a targeted join date of 2025.

This new infrastructure must meet standards set out in EU directives.

Signing the CRBC deal on 5 February, Serbia’s Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Tomislav Momirović, said it was "Serbia boldly stepping into the future and creating a modern, functional state".

He said Serbia must have "the most modern roads, the fastest railway lines, digital highways, but also an environmentally safe environment in which we live".

The contracts stipulate that CRBC must hand over completed and tested facilities 39 months after each gets its building permit.

At least 49% of subcontractors employed on the works must be Serbian, the government said.

China’s ambassador to Serbia, Ms. Chen Bo, said: "Chinese companies have the most advanced technology and equipment for the construction of wastewater treatment plants and landfills, and are fully capable of building the facilities according to European standards."

The contracts are based on the Yellow Fidic conditions for building and engineering works designed by the contractor; each municipality will have the status of an investor.

China is active in Serbian infrastructure development. A deal with PowerChina and France’s Alstom to build a €4.4bn metro system in Belgrade is imminent. (See further reading.) 

Image: China’s ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo bumps fists with Serbian Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, Tomislav Momirović, at the deal signing on 5 February 2021 (Courtesy of the Serbian Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure’s press office)

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