BELGRADE, Serbia — An environmental protection group is challenging the way local authorities granted permits to China's Shandong Linglong Tire Co. Ltd. for the construction of its car/light truck tire plant in Zrenjanin, Serbia.
Under Serbian law, the $995 million factory project must undergo environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures, and it also falls under IPPC regulation which require integrated environmental permit, according to Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI).
In March 2019, an agreement was signed transferring 235 acres of land to the Chinese group for the purposes of building a factory, noted the Belgrade-based NGO. Linglong broke ground on the project in April 2019.
According to an RERI statement, land for the project was fenced off during 2019 without any environmental assessment being conducted.
Earlier this year, it added, Zrenjanin city authorities issued a building permit for the first phase of construction of auxiliary facilities at the site "contrary to applicable regulations."
The permit was followed by a formal request on March 31 from Linglong International Europe d.o.o. for a decision on the need for an EIA of the project.
However, the NGO said amid the COVID-19 state-of-emergency, city authorities suspended the decision-making process, while also rejecting 215 local objections to the project as "unfounded."
"The decision of the city authority is extraordinary by any means […as] it was issued in a form which has not been prescribed by law, i.e. the procedure was suspended," RERI legal expert Hristina Vojvodic said.
The authority, she said, is legally obliged to issue a decision on whether or not an EIA study is necessary. Even if a study is not required, this decision must still address environmental protection measures.
"By suspending the procedures, the city authority disabled effective public participation and enabled the investor to continue with construction works without being bothered by the additional environmental protection measures," Ms. Vojvodic concluded.
The plant is rated at 13.6 million tires per year, comprising: 12 million car tires, 1.6 million truck/bus tires and 20,000 off-the-road tires. It was scheduled to be built in three phases over six years.