Parts of the Balkan River become floating rubbish dumps

VISEGRAD, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) — Tons of garbage dumped in poorly regulated riverside dumps or directly into the waterways flowing through three countries are accumulating behind a waste barrier in the Drina River in eastern Bosnia during the wet winter and early weather. spring.

This week, the barrier once again became the outer edge of a huge floating rubbish dump filled with plastic bottles, rusty barrels, used tires, appliances, driftwood and other rubbish picked up by the river from its tributaries.

The river fence installed by a Bosnian hydroelectric power station a few miles upstream from the dam at Visegrad has turned the city into an unwilling regional dump, local environmentalists complain.

Heavy rains and unusually warm weather over the past week have caused many rivers and streams in Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro to burst their banks, flooding surrounding areas and displacing dozens of people . Temperatures dipped in many areas on Friday as rain turned to snow.

“We have had a lot of rainfall and severe flooding in recent days and a huge inflow of water from (the tributaries of the Drina in) Montenegro, which is thankfully now decreasing,” said Dejan Furtula of the environmental group Eko Centar Visegrad.

“Unfortunately, the massive influx of waste has not stopped,” he added.

The Drina River runs 346 kilometers (215 mi) from the mountains of northwestern Montenegro through Serbia and Bosnia. and some of its tributaries are known for their emerald color and breathtaking landscapes. A section along the Bosnia-Serbia border is popular with river rafters when it’s not “garbage season.”

It is estimated that some 10,000 cubic meters (more than 353,000 cubic feet) of rubbish has accumulated behind the Drina River dump in recent days, Furtula said. The same amount was taken from that part of the river in recent years.

Removing the waste takes an average of six months. It ends up in the municipal landfill in Visegrad, which according to Furtula “doesn’t even have enough capacity to handle (the city’s) municipal waste.”

“The fires at the (municipal) landfill are always burning,” he said, calling the conditions there “not only a huge environmental and health hazard, but a great embarrassment to all of us.”

Decades after the devastating wars of the 1990s that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Balkans lag behind the rest of Europe both economically and in terms of environmental protection.

Countries in the region have made little progress in establishing effective, environmentally sound waste management systems, despite striving for membership in the European Union and adopting some of the EU’s laws and regulations.

Unauthorized rubbish dumps dot the hills and valleys of the region, while rubbish litters the roads and plastic bags hang from the trees.

In addition to river pollution, many countries in the Western Balkans have other environmental problems. One of the most pressing is the extremely high levels of air pollution affecting a number of cities in the region.

“People need to wake up to this kind of problem,” said Visegrad resident Rados Brekalovic.

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