Фотограф: Златина Точкова

Why Does Meto Clean the River Struma?

This is Metodi. You probably know him. Meto is one of the harmonica’s co-founders and a driving force behind everything we do. This story is about him and the river he grew up with.

It all started one sunny spring day, near the village of Dolna Grashtnitsa in the Kyustendil region. Dolna Grashtnitsa is where Meto spent the long summer vacations of his childhood. The village is located on the banks of the River Struma in the picturesque Kyustendil valley.  The river begins life on the slopes of Mount Vitosha, curves around Dolna Grashtnitsa and, with everything floating in its waters, flows into the Aegean Sea.

The picturesque River Struma near the village of Dolna Grashtnitsa, Kyustendil region.

So, while walking along the river on this spring day, Metodi decides to pick up the trash he sees on the bank. He finds a bag in the river and fills it up with garbage. However, there is more trash, so the next day, Metodi returns to continue his cleaning operation. It turns out there is so much waste that it is beyond one man’s powers.  In no time, Meto gathers several friends from the village and organizes a more extensive clean-up action.

Valyo (Chunchata) from Dolna Grashtnitsa is one of the first to join in the action.

Although Meto spends more and more time picking up garbage from the river, endless waste keeps bobbing up. Evidently, the river is choking with plastic waste and rubbish of all sorts that floats down the stream. It’s painfully clear that more severe intervention is required.

This is Nikolay, the most regular participant.

Meto remembers times as a kid, when he and his friends spent a lot of time in the river – swimming, jumping, fishing. What he finds now is a river so choked full of garbage that is floating down the stream and piling on the riverbanks.

A day after being cleaned, this side of the river is again full of rubbish.

Gradually, the operation expands. A team of several friends from the village gathers – Nikolay and Valyo (Chunchata). The guys buy an old pick-up truck to reach far-off places along the river and to load up the garbage. The pick-up actions continue every week from spring until the end of summer. The team collects almost a ton of trash, which is then stored in an abandoned pumping station.

The more they clean up, the more trash floats down with the stream.

To clean-up some places, completely blocked with waste, more time and people are needed.

By the end of the summer, it’s clear that clean-up actions aren’t the answer. The source of the pollution needs to be found and stopped. If you look at the river at any given moment, there is always rubbish floating down it.

September 2020, on the way to Struma River. Meto recounts.

At the end of September, several people from harmonica join Meto, who shows us what he is facing. With passion and vigor, he has committed to finding a solution to the problem. However, he needs more manpower and support.

Svetlyo and Zlati accompany us to tell the story of this endeavor.

Although there is nobody to see it, we raise our flag.

Some of the best preserved wild rivers of Europe run through Bulgaria – marvelous, pristine nature that we can be proud of. Their destruction, due to inefficient waste management systems in urban areas, is a mere crime.

Cleaning up every river requires lots of time, resources, and effort. Nonetheless, the priority is preventing pollution.

We are looking for a solution for the Struma River. In the meantime, to deal with issues occurring with other rivers, more people and energy need to be engaged. Instead of wasting time, we decided to tell the story of Metodi and the Struma River. It is our hope to inspire more people to step up for their rivers.

The beautiful nature of Bulgaria in 2021. Are we the most polluting generation?

It’s only up to us to make the change.

We’re keeping on with our work on the River Struma, and we’ll keep you updated.


If you want to join in, support us, or share your experience, write to us at struma@harmonica.bg

Our small clean-up crew after a couple of hours in the river in September 2020. From left to right: Valyo (Chunchata), Vercheto, Marina, Nikolay, Lyubo, Zhoro, Metodi.

Zlatina Tochkova is the author of all pictures in the article.

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