October 9, 2023 – We are in the third year since a strong earthquake hit Banovina. Thousands of people were left without a roof, and their homes were replaced by containers. What is the state of the Banovina reconstruction 3 years later?
Slow. Painfully so. Some of the residents of Petrinja and the surrounding villages are still waiting for the renovation and construction of their homes to start. Some of them are still without electricity as well, emphasizes Index.
Solidarna Foundation: Banovina Reconstruction is Painfully Slow
Ivan Blažević of the Solidarna Foundation, which has been involved in helping the families in need in Petrinja from the beginning, including the reconstruction and construction of their houses, has on several occasions criticized the sluggishness of the system and the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Construction and Property itself, appealing to the slowness and poor quality of construction in Petrinja.
“As for the renovation of private houses or the construction of replacement houses, the work that the government contracts is terribly slow. People have been complaining that the contractors work for a day and then disappear for a month and a half. The quality of the work is far below the level we should expect, and we had cases where the contracted supervisor only visited once or twice during the construction period.
We have seen a contractor start and then simply stop the construction halfway through the works due to declared bankruptcy, for example. The new house then falls apart before anyone has even moved in. Nine months after the state laid the foundations, we are still waiting for documents from the contractor and the inspector.
It is true that the situation in the construction market is very bad, there are no workers available. Companies are opening and closing as if on a conveyor belt, which calls into question the quality of works, but also the ability of companies to absorb such a quantity. In addition, for serious companies that have been doing well for years, these types of jobs contracted with the state are simply unprofitable,” Blažević tells us.
“We Fear Another Earthquake”
Since this is how things are done, he is afraid of another earthquake when, he claims, the poor quality of work will come into focus again, as it did after this one, but also with the reconstruction of houses after the war. He also criticized the slowness of the national and local electricity companies. He says that people have been waiting up to three months for their electricity to be connected.
“When we delivered mobile homes or residential containers, the electricity connection had to be done by the national provider or the local electricity company. Then we had to wait for three months to connect the container. It’s completely crazy to me that almost three years after the earthquake, there are still families who have to live in containers without electricity. This means no cooling in the summer, no heating in the winter, but also no possibility of cooking inside.
I’m afraid that on the anniversary of the earthquake, the cities will look great, there will be no container settlements, there are scaffoldings on many buildings, and several buildings and houses have been built to house people from some of the containers. If you go a little further into the villages, though, you will see the same situation as the year before, only with fewer people. Young people moved away, and older people left us. Nobody will be happier than me if I am wrong,” Blažević stated.
The Ministry Terminated Several Contracts
The relevant ministry says that by the end of June this year, they managed to realize projects worth 1,450 billion euros, which is 143 percent of the allocation of the 1,003 billion euros they had available from the Fund, which they say is “an exceptional success.”
“For the Zagreb earthquake, EUR 684 million was approved, and EUR 910 million, or 133% of the allocation, was realized, while for the Petrinja earthquake, an allocation of EUR 319 million was approved, and EUR 543 million, or 130% of the allocation, was realized.
Of the contracted 1,330 projects with a total value of 3.3 billion euros, of which 1,003 are financed from FSEU, 1,525 from NPOO, and the rest from the state budget, 912 projects have been completed to date.
The funds were used for the reconstruction of 156 schools and kindergartens, 26 colleges, 18 hospitals, and 56 other health institutions, over 250 buildings of culture and cultural heritage, 600 km of roads, 77 bridges, 6 km of tram lines, 28 km of embankments and coastal fortifications, 100 km of networks for water supply and drainage; and 108 collapsed sinkholes, and 217 landslides were repaired,” they said.
The Solidarna Foundation says that the renovation carried out by the Ministry of Construction is very slow and that the contractors have changed several times, so the houses have been falling into disrepair. As the Ministry claims, 71 construction companies are currently carrying out organized Banovina reconstruction works. They also confirmed that they had terminated their contracts with several of them in the meantime.
“One contract was terminated with the company Mipek d.o.o., and under the second contract, a bank guarantee was charged due to the delay in the execution of the works. The contract with the bidder community Braniteljska Zadruga Izbor Plus, PZC d.o.o. and Grand d.o.o. was also terminated, and another company was contracted to complete the construction works.
The company Presoflex d.o.o. was in pre-bankruptcy but managed to consolidate and is finishing the construction work on the allocated houses. We note that all the houses that were given to other contractors were in the final stages, the roof structures were made, so they did not collapse. Their construction has been continuous and is coming to an end,” they say, denying some allegations that they are in a court case with one of these companies.
The Justifications for Slow Banovina Reconstruction
Solidarna also said that it is not clear to them why instead of 500 houses, only 200 or so were contracted. Here is what the Ministry says about it:
“As for the procurement of high-energy mobile homes, the Ministry conducted the procurement and signed contracts with two companies: Krapina Jedinstvo and ALU forma from Krapina. These are indicative delivery quantities, and based on the current estimate, the production of 125 such houses has been ordered, the delivery of which is expected at the beginning of October.
These houses are intended for the accommodation of those users whose homes have not yet been renovated, and who live in containers next to their houses that they do not want to leave (because they have animals, gardens, fields, etc.) as well as for the accommodation of those users of containers who do not have the right to renovation, that is, they did not possess real estate at the time of the earthquake.
Namely, according to the Program for users of mobile housing units, which was adopted by the Croatian Government in February of this year, priority is given to the users of mobile housing units, i.e. containers, in resolving requests for renovation. Currently, 1,056 private buildings and houses are under reconstruction in the area affected by the Zagreb and Petrinja earthquakes, the largest part of which is for container users. Houses are renovated every day, so the number of users and individual containers is continuously decreasing.
Also, container settlements have been closed, and consequently, the need for high-energy houses is decreasing. The Ministry continuously monitors the dynamics of the Banovina reconstruction on the ground and, if necessary, will order additional quantities of high-energy houses,” they say.
The Data on the Containers
They also state that there is an accurate record of all container users, be it state or private donations, and that 2,104 individual containers are currently placed at home addresses.
“A significant number of these containers are not used for residential purposes, and at the moment, the Ministry is conducting an analysis of all locations. Also, there are currently more containers next to houses where the renovation has already been completed, and they will also be exempted in the coming period. Ministry officials are monitoring the situation in the field and existing users.
The data of the container users is also regularly monitored and updated regarding the status of the reconstruction of the individual buildings where they lived before the earthquake. Each container user is offered one of the 11 available housing care models determined by the Government Program. In one part, the citizens decided to finance the rental, i.e. renting an apartment in their own organization, for which the state covers the rental costs according to the number of household members.
Some decided to temporarily rent an apartment owned by the state, free of charge. In addition to the offered housing care models, by the decision of the Government, utility costs are co-financed depending on the number of household members, from 100 euros for 1 person, up to a maximum of 160 euros per month for 4 or more people. But, unfortunately, a certain number of users, despite the offered housing care models, do not want to leave their property because they are tied to the property they have there (animals, garden, fields, etc.),” they said.
Ministry: We have established the dynamics of Banovina Reconstruction
“The issuance of the Ministry’s decision on the Banovina reconstruction is preceded by a finding and a detailed review by an authorized engineer on the state of damage to the building, on the basis of which the Ministry’s decision is made. In the process of organized renovation, the Ministry coordinates the preparation of findings and carries out procurement procedures for the same.
With the new model of self-reconstruction, which was introduced by legislative changes in February of this year, such a finding can be made by the user himself, who is waiting for the renewal, while he does not have to carry out the procurement procedure (which is the case with the state), so the entire process in that part can be accelerated.
However, given the fact that the renovation of 10,046 private buildings and houses has been completed, that 1,056 renovation sites are currently under construction, and an additional 1,100 are in the procurement process, we can say that we have achieved a reconstruction dynamic that continuously opens new construction sites and that the renovation takes on a dynamic that is continuously increasing,” reads their response to Index.
They also say that there were certain problems with the contractors, but that the Ministry is in constant contact with them and monitors the execution dynamics and defines dynamic execution plans for Banovina reconstruction in accordance with that.
Some People in Banovina Still Without Electricity
Anica Stojković is a resident of Banovina who still hasn’t received an electricity connection, and she submitted the request in August last year. She bathes in a basin, it is dark at night, and for cooking, she boils water from a polluted well.
The Ministry says that according to the information they have, the national electricity company has established a protocol for connecting individual households to electricity (HEP), and there are no delays.
HEP told Index that immediately after the delivery of the temporary mobile units, they started connecting households to the network.
“In a very short time after the earthquake, 25 container settlements and over 3,200 individual connections were connected, i.e. all those for which a request was received from the Croatian Civil Protection Headquarters and local self-government units (cities and municipalities) were connected,” they say.