Romanian leader Nicolae Ceausescu turned down the heating in homes and in public spaces and people shivered in the cold winter months. The late Communist dictator wanted to save money and keep Romania debt-free, so heating, as well as food, were rationed and in short supply.
It’s 30 years since Ceausescu was overthrown and executed and Romania embarked on the road to a democracy and a market economy.
But 1.2 million residents in the Romanian capital still rely on the city for heating and hot water. Record debts from unpaid heating bills and underfinancing mean thousands risk days without warmth in their homes, a study shows.
The study carried out by consulting company Frames for Bucharest heating company Radet (public energy distribution company) says 80% of the company’s pipes are older than 25 years and should have been replaced 10 years ago.
As a result, many pipes are cracked and the onset of winter when the heat is turned on will make the phenomenon worse.
Last winter, there were 3,500 damaged pipes affecting tens of thousands of residents in Bucharest, a city of more than two million. Chronic underfinancing means that only a few pipes have been repaired. “A tiny portion, just a few percent.”
“We can’t rule out that it will be worse this year. For Bucharest residents this means days without hot water and heating in the middle of winter,” the study said.
Radet, which is under the control of the Bucharest city hall, has debts of 3.83 billion lei to ELCEN, the state energy and heating supplier.
Radet manages the biggest heating system in Romania with a 43% market share in the capital. It has 950 kilometers of pipes and 2,900 kilometers of secondary pipes.
It provides heating to 1.21 million residents in Bucharest who live in 560,000 apartments and 4,900 institutions such as schools and hospitals. It provides 72% of heating for the capital and had just under 3,000 employees at the end of last year, according to its website.