Parts of the Balkan River become a floating landfill

VISEGRAD, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) – Tons of waste dumped in poorly regulated riverside landfills or directly into the waterways that cross three countries end up behind a garbage barrier in the Drina River in eastern Bosnia during the wet weather of winter and early . our.

This week, the barrier once again became the outer edge of a massive floating landfill crammed with plastic bottles, rusted barrels, used tires, household appliances, driftwood and other trash picked up by the river from its tributaries.

The river fence installed by a Bosnian hydroelectric plant, a few kilometers upstream from the dam near Visegrad, has turned the city into an unwilling regional dumping ground, local environmental activists complain.

Heavy rain and unusually warm weather over the past week have caused many rivers and streams in Bosnia, Serbia and Montenegro to overflow, flooding the surrounding areas and forcing many people from their homes. Temperatures dropped in many areas on Friday as rain turned to snow.

“We have had a lot of rainfall and violent floods in the last few days and a huge influx of water from (the Drina’s tributaries in) Montenegro, which is now fortunately decreasing,” said Dejan Furtula of the environmental group Eko Centar Visegrad

“Unfortunately, the huge influx of garbage has not stopped,” he added.

The Drina River flows 346 kilometers (215 miles) from the mountains of northwestern Montenegro through Serbia and Bosnia. and some of the tributaries are known for their emerald color and stunning scenery. A section along the border between Bosnia and Serbia is popular with river rafters when it is not “garbage season”.

About 10,000 cubic meters (more than 353,000 cubic feet) of waste is estimated to have accumulated behind the Drina River garbage barrier in recent days, Furtula said. The same amount was withdrawn in recent years from that area of ​​the river.

Removing the rubbish takes up to six months on average. It ends up at the municipal landfill in Visegrad, which Furtula said “does not even have sufficient 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 major environmental and health hazard, but also a major embarrassment for all of us.”

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

The countries in the region have made little progress in building efficient, environmentally friendly waste disposal systems despite applying for EU membership and adopting some of the EU’s laws and regulations.

Unauthorized waste dumps dot hills and valleys throughout the region, while 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 level of air pollution affecting a number of cities in the region.

“People need to wake up to problems like this,” said Visegrad resident Rados Brekalovic.

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