Fotografia di Torino



by  Francesco Abbate, University of Torino and Virginia Vergero, University of Torino

L’articolo verte sull’analisi di tematiche emerse nel corso della valutazione finale di un progetto promosso dalla Città di Torino, avente come obiettivo il rafforzamento delle capacità delle autorità locali di Yangon, la metropoli più popolosa del Myanmar, nella gestione dei rifiuti solidi urbani. In particolare sono evidenziati i punti di forza e di debolezza della cooperazione decentrata in tale ambito.

The article analyzes issues which emerged during the final evaluation of a project promoted by the City of Torino. The project has the objective of improving the capacity of the local authorities of Yangon – the most populous city in Myanmar – in the management of solid urban waste. In particular we highlight the points of strength and of weakness of decentralized cooperation in this field.


In the increasingly broad scenario of international cooperation, local authorities (LAs) have been emerging as new actors in the past few years and are likely to play a key role in the future both as donors and beneficiaries. Among the global challenges we are facing today, LAs are on the frontline in a variety of areas: rapid urban growth and mobility problems, migrants’ inclusion as well as environmental protection, including urban solid waste management. Working with LAs, empowering them and strengthening their capacity in managing problems and finding local solutions to global problems are all viewed as a significant step toward sustainable development, as has been recognized by the European Commission (Communication on Local authorities: actors for development, 2008)
The purpose of this article is to assess the extent to which decentralized cooperation can improve solid waste management in cities of the developing world. The analysis is based on the independent final evaluation of a project stemming from the partnership between the City of Turin, Italy and the City of Yangon, Myanmar. This assessment has been facilitated by the direct involvement of the authors in the project as members of the evaluation team.
The project titled “Environmental protection and sustainable development: building local capacities on solid waste management in Myanmar” (in short SWM) stands as an interesting example of decentralized cooperation on environmental issues. With a budget of €1.2 million funded by European Union and co-funded by the Italian Development Cooperation, the three-year project, completed in February 2016, benefited Yangon, former capital and the most populous city of Myanmar (with 5.2 million inhabitants, roughly six times larger than Turin) as well as economic heart of the country.
The overall ambitious objective of SWM was to contribute to the integration of environmental protection principles into policies and programmes in Myanmar. Its specific objective was to strengthen the capacities of the Yangon City’s Pollution Control and Cleansing Department (PCCD), in solid waste management.
The project strategy was threefold, as was mirrored in SWM three components: Component 1 – Institutional, implemented by City of Turin with the assistance of AMIAT, the public-private company managing the garbage collection and final disposal in Turin; Component 2 – Technical, implemented by ITHACA, an ICT company linked to Polytechnic University of Turin; and Component 3 - Social, implemented by CESVI, an Italian NGO active in Myanmar since a long time. The City of Turin was responsible for the overall project management.
Among the three components, the institutional one was the most challenging and with a longer-term perspective. Its main results include:

• The Legal Framework Report, containing short, medium and long-term suggestions for the integration of environmental principles and practices into the national and Yangon legislations, on the basis of EU and Italian legal sources. It is important to note, that such sources were not always the latest, thus increasing the likelihood of these suggestions being really feasible and more easily acceptable. In order to support this process, the experts highlighted which first steps are needed to reach a good level of regulation. Such regulation could represent the keystone of a broader environmental policy that could provide a solid basis for an efficient solid waste management and, at the same time, could become a starting point for future implementation.
• The City of Turin Regulations on the Management of Municipal Waste have abundantly inspired the drafting of the PCCD Bylaws, which, however, have not yet been approved by the Regional Government, although they were submitted in October 2014.
• An AMIAT official advised PCCD on procedures regarding the privatization of the waste collection and disposal service and assisted PCCD in the selection of the winning company. The selection process, however, was suspended following the results of an opinion poll.

Component 2 was the most sophisticated and training-intensive component in the entire project. Despite some initial difficulties related to weak computer skills, poor knowledge of the English language and lack of follow-up to training activities, ITHACA provided an IT system with a twofold outcome. It was instrumental for mapping all Yangon City, so that PCCD could manage more easily the garbage collection, and for collecting and analysing data regarding waste production in order to forecast future requirements and adjust the waste management strategy accordingly. In other words, the main achievement of this component was the transfer of technology and methodology that PCCD adopted and now can apply again for different data and locations according to their own needs and strategies.
The rationale of Component 3, the “social” one, was based on the concept that the services of a local authority cannot reach their potential if the local community is not aware of the reasons, good practices and effects at the origin of the service. The key results of this component were:

• School awareness campaigns: schoolchildren and, indirectly, their families had access to knowledge on health, environment and good practices related to SWM and in particular the 3R (Reduce, Recycle, Reuse) strategy.
• Community days: three pilot townships, totalling roughly 700,000 inhabitants, were informed and sensitized on good practices through cleaning campaigns and distribution of promotional material.
• Two successful pilot projects: 1) production of items with recycled plastic bags and 2) production of compost by collecting green waste in one of the pilot townships. Both projects involved vulnerable families living in such townships.

To sum up, there is good evidence that SWM has generated the added value that is expected from decentralized cooperation. In fact, in the Communication mentioned above, the European Commission identified several “added values of decentralised cooperation”, that can be traced in the present project too. Specifically, they are the following:

1) catalyst for change: decentralized cooperation has undoubtedly promoted a network to foster innovative policies and solutions in the SWM sector in Yangon, with the active role played by City of Turin, ITHACA, CESVI and AMIAT;

2) long-term partnership and twinning: the project should be seen and assessed in the broader context of the long-standing presence in Myanmar of one partner (CESVI), as well as of the willingness to establish a broader and lasting partnership between Turin and Yangon, beyond the specific sector of SWM. This is testified by the new project “Sustainable Urban Mobility Planning” (SUMP), funded by the European Union and involving the same partners as those who implemented SWM. In addition, a comprehensive and forward-looking Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the Mayors of Turin and Yangon in May 2015 to foster cooperation in a variety of fields, including trade, tourism, social services, environment and cultural activities;

3) responsiveness to local needs: being directly involved in the governance of their city and territory, Turin LAs were particularly effective in understanding their peers’ needs, and in sharing their institutional and technical know-how to address those needs;

4) awareness raising: As Turin LAs are in daily and direct contact with their citizens and hold significant responsibilities in this area, they played, together with CESVI, a crucial role in awareness raising on SWM issues in Yangon;

5) multi-actor partnership: the project has created a successful multi-actor partnership in order to address the issues of SWM, involving local institutions, technical expertise and civil society actors both in Turin and Yangon.

Despite its significant achievements, however, SWM experienced a number of shortcomings, which, to a great extent, reflect the limits of decentralized cooperation. Among the crucial weaknesses of this project are:

1) The lack of involvement of national and regional authorities, resulting in a considerable delay in the approval and thus enforcement of the PCCD Bylaws. Furthermore, although the project had a clear municipal focus, its overall objective and a number of its activities had a national dimension, by addressing, as an example, law-making issues going beyond the mandate of YCDC. The virtual absence of the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry in project implementation can be seen as a sign of the built-in limitations of decentralized cooperation, where LAs typically exchange best practices and provide technical assistance on a peer-to-peer basis. This shortcoming also had an adverse impact on the demonstration effect and thus the replicability of the project in other major cities in Myanmar, such as Mandalay and Naypyidaw, the national capital.

2) The small size of the project - another common feature of decentralized cooperation initiatives. In addition, SWM was not part of, nor benefited from, a broader environmental project, thus lacking the critical mass necessary to promote a policy dialogue with the Central Government on nationwide environmental issues and programmes.

3) The lack of an adequate exit strategy, involving preparatory work on a successor project and possible sources of funding. This activity would have again required the pro-active involvement of the national authorities in exploring the availability of potential donors beyond those who funded SWM and ensuring donor coordination, which was another missing element in project execution, especially in view of the parallel massive assistance provided by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in this area.

The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the City of Turin or any other organisation. For further information, please visit the project website (    


Newsletter N. 03 | MAY 2016 - Scarica il pdf



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