Sections of the Balkan rivers will become floating garbage dumps

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VISEGRAD, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Tons of waste dumped in poorly managed riverside landfills or directly into the waterways that flow across three countries accumulate behind a waste barrier in the Drina River in eastern Bosnia during the wet winter and early spring weather.

This week, the barrier once again became the outer edge of a large floating garbage dump filled with plastic bottles, rusty barrels, used tires, household appliances, wood shavings and other trash picked up by the a river from its tributaries.

The river fence installed by a Bosnian hydroelectric plant, a few kilometers upstream from its dam near Visegrad, has turned the town into an unhappy regional waste site, local environmental activists say. ‘ complaints.

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

“We had a lot of rain and heavy flooding in the last few days and a big flow of water from (Drina’s tributaries in) Montenegro which is now, fortunately, subsiding,” said Dejan Furtula of the agency environment Eko Centar Visegrad

“Unfortunately, the massive flow of waste did not stop,” he said.

The Drina River runs 346 kilometers (215 miles) from the mountains of northwestern Montenegro through Serbia and Bosnia. and some of its tributaries are famous for their emerald color and spectacular scenery. A section on the border between Bosnia and Serbia with river rafters is very popular when it is not “waste season”.

It is estimated that about 10,000 cubic meters (more than 353,000 cubic feet) of garbage have accumulated behind the Drina River garbage barrier in the past few days, Furtula said. The same amount has been drawn in recent years from that area of ​​the river.

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

“The fires at the (municipal) landfill site are always burning,” he said, adding that the conditions there “are not only a serious threat to the environment and health, but also a cause shame on us all. “

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.

The countries of the region have not made much progress in building environmentally efficient waste disposal systems despite seeking membership in the European Union and adopting some EU laws and regulations.

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

In addition to river pollution, many countries in the Western Balkans face other environmental problems. One of the most important is the very high level of air pollution that affects several cities in the area.

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

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