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Pata Rat landfill, Cluj Napoca, Romania


Europe’s largest waste-related ghetto is to be found in Cluj-Napoca, Romania’s fourth biggest city. Around 1,500 people, mostly Roma, live in four different informal settlements around the Pata Rât landfill, situated 6 kilometres away from the city centre. Many of them live in improvised shelters, made with materials that they can find at the landfill, such as cardboard, plastic or rotten wood. The majority of people from Pata Rât live in extreme poverty. Some of them have no access to utilities, not even electricity.

The names of the four settlements are: Dallas, Garbage Dump, Cantonului street and new Pata Rât /Colina Verde, each with its distinct history of discrimination and environmental exposure. Leaks from the landfill pollute the soil and groundwater. The inhabitants often suffer from ear, eye and skin infections, asthma or bronchitis, high blood pressure, heart and stomach problems due to oozing substances and noxious smoke when waste is burned. Job opportunities are limited apart from those in the waste dump. Most of the children do not regularly attend school. While the social, economic and environmental issues around Pata Rât are complex, one thing is clear: the situation is the result of long-standing structural violence, including environmental racism, against the affected Roma communities. The environmental justice case is inextricably tied to racial and citizen rights issues and the problem has been explicitly defined as a form of “environmental racism [that] dehumanizes poor Roma and pollutes the milieu where they are forced to live” (Vincze, 2013, p. 389).

The Dallas community has been established in the ‘60s by poor Roma families who came to make a living from selecting recyclable materials form the industrial area and the landfill. This community is still in the same place practicing the same type of work. The Cantonului community was created by a few Roma families that have been evicted, in the end of the ‘90s, from different places from the city (Cluj-Napoca) and relocated to Pata Rât as a an initially temporary measure. However, after more than 20 years, they are still there. Many of them do not go work at the landfill, instead they have informal jobs in the city in construction or at the sanitation company. The third community from the landfill are the poorest and most discriminated Roma from Pata Rât. Almost all of them are illiterate, and their only source of income is from collecting recyclable waste from the landfill, as much as the other Roma from Pata Rât allow them to do so. The ‘Coastei’ community had to settle 800 meters from the landfill and 200 meters from a former pharmaceutical waste dump following a forced and illegal eviction of 250 mostly Romani people from Coastei Street in December 2010. After their homes were demolished, around half of the 76 families have been provided with housing at Pata Rât. One room may host a family with up to 12 members – and some of the dwellings come without sanitation or proper cooking facilities. Each block of four homes shares one water connection which provides only cold water. The remaining families were not offered any accommodation and were forced to build improvised shelters with materials from the landfill, such as cardboard, plastic or rotten wood. The fact that the settlement is only poorly served by public transport has only improved slowly. Consequently, the majority the people working in the city centre lost their jobs and their children found it difficult to attend school.

Since 2012, the Cluj municipality has been working to expand the landfill from Pata Rât by building a new dump, with EU funds, which has not been completed until 2017. This happened, apparently without acknowledging the ongoing environmental impacts on the local segregated population.

In 2014, the Cluj-Napoca County Court declared illegal the city authorities’ decision to displace the families from Coastei Street and force them to live under such conditions. It ruled that adequate housing in line with the minimum legal standards be provided and that damages be paid to the families.

In 2017, the European Commission took Romania to the European Court of Justice for its failure to close and rehabilitate 68 illegal landfills, including Pata Rât, especially because Romania had been allocated funding by the EU’s European Regional Development Fund to replace the substandard waste dump with a new waste disposal system.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Pata Rat landfill, Cluj Napoca, Romania
Location of conflict:Cluj Napoca
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Specific commodities:Land
Domestic municipal waste
Industrial waste
Recycled Metals

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The Cluj Napoca municipality forcibly relocated 350 people, most identified as Roma, in December 2010 from a street in a residential area of Cluj Napoca to the city’s municipal waste dump and a nearby chemical waste dump. However, this environmental justice case involves much more than this forced relocation “project”, as the inhabitants have been subject to long-term discrimination.

The project "Integrated waste management system in Cluj County" has a total eligible budget of EUR 52 899 193, with the EU's European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 38 773 186 for the 2007 to 2013 programming period.

Project area:30
Level of Investment:52,899,000 Euros
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:1,500
Start of the conflict:17/12/2010
Company names or state enterprises:National Public Management company from Romania - Management and construction of Pata Rat waste dump
SC Confort SA from Romania - Construction of the new waste dump
Atzwanger SPA from Romania - Construction of the new waste dump
Salprest SA from Romania - Waste management
SC Ladurner Impianti SRL from Romania - Construction of the new waste dump
SC Vel Service SA from Romania - Construction of the new waste dump
Relevant government actors:Cluj Napoca municipality, Cluj Local Council, Cluj Prefecture.
International and Finance InstitutionsEuropean Commission - Funding of the Integrated Waste Management Facility (no involvement in segregation/discrimination)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Working Group of Civil Society Organizations (gLOC) (unavailable in June 2017)
Desire Foundation (
Pro Roma ( - Romamian and - Dutch)
International IEJOs:

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Informal workers
International ejos
Wastepickers, recyclers
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Fires, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Other Environmental impacts
Other Environmental impactsInsecure housing
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Occupational disease and accidents
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place


Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Land demarcation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Development of alternatives:Development of alternative housing:
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:There are no apparent plans or intentions to relocate the Roma from Pata Rat to offer them acceptable living and working conditions.

Sources & Materials

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Spatialization and Racialization of Social Exclusion

Spatialization and Racialization of Social Exclusion. The Social and Cultural Formation of ‘Gypsy Ghettos’ in Romania in a European Context

Guest editor: Enikő Vincze

Studia Sociologia - see no. 2/2013 for download link.

Book published in 2016: "Pata" (in Romanian)

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Pata-Cluj, a social intervention project using an integrated approach to social inclusion.

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Social justice in Pata Cluj

Trailer documentary Pata-Cluj (2017)

Meta information

Contributor:Filip Alexandrescu (Ca' Foscari University of Venice, Italy and Research Institute for the Quality of Life, Romania), [email protected], with contributons from Ionut Anghel, Cristina Rat and Simona Stanescu.
Last update13/10/2017




Pata Rat pictures

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu


Pata Rat picture #7

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu (to whom credit is due)

Pata Rat picture #6

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu (to whom credit is due)


Pata Rat picture #2

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu (to whom credit is due)

Pata Rat picture #3

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu (to whom credit is due)

Pata Rat picture #4

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu (to whom credit is due)

Pata Rat picture #5

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu (to whom credit is due)


Pata Rat picture #1

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu (to whom credit is due)

Pata Rat picture #6

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu (to whom credit is due)

Pata Rat picture #7

Pictures taken in April 2017 by George Popescu (to whom credit is due)