Source: eKapija | Wednesday, 24.05.2017.| 11:12
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Situation regarding waste water treatment facilities still unclear – Serbia needs nearly EUR 5 billion for all-encompassing solution, realistic deadline as late as 2041?

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The construction of the waste water treatment facility in Zlatibor should start in July and be completed before the end of the season. The Government of Serbia has recently determined public interest for the expropriation of the land for the construction of the facility, which means that everything is ready for the construction works on this mountain.

The facility in Zlatibor, for which the municipality has set aside RSD 60 million, is one of more than 300 facilities Serbia needs to build on its way to the accession to the European Union, in line with Chapter 27 (Environment). During the negotiations within this chapter, Serbia will propose to the European Commission for the facilities to be built by 2041. By that time, the majority of places in Serbia will get such facilities, and the order in which they are to be built is determined by the list of priority projects, the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection confirms for eKapija.

The big question remains where Serbia will find money for these projects, as they have been estimated at around EUR 4.9 billion.

There are currently 44 waste water treatment devices in Serbia, of which 32 are operational, whereas only 8 meet the criteria defined by the EU directives. According to the ministry, less than 8% of the Serbian populace is provided with efficient waste water treatment.

Negotiations to begin in 2017?

Serbia was invited in January 2017 to submit the negotiation position for Chapter 27. According to Natasa Djereg of the Center for Ecology and Sustainable Development (CEKOR), who acts as the coordinator of the working group of the National Convent on the European Union for the said chapter, the preparation of the draft negotiation position should start in June and it should be adopted this autumn, following which the Chapter should be opened.

It is not known precisely when this might happen, nor how long the negotiations might take. It is known, however, that Serbia will have to make the greatest efforts regarding waste and its disposal, an issue that relates to waste waters and air pollution.

Municipal waste water treatment facilities ought to meet the requirements defined by the national regulations, harmonized with the EU regulations, primarily the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive. Tertiary treatment in sensitive areas is envisaged for agglomerations greater than 10,000 PE (population equivalent), secondary treatment is meant for agglomerations of 2,000-10,000 PE, whereas individual type treatment, which nevertheless needs to meet all the requirements regarding the quality of discharged waste waters in line with the regulations, is envisaged for agglomerations below 2,000 PE.

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– The EU demands that member-states ensure that municipal waste waters, which enter collection systems, be subjected to secondary treatment or equivalent treatment before being discharged. Furthermore, they require sensitive areas to be defined, and that waste waters be subjected to even stricter treatment before being discharged within them – Djereg explains.

The biggest water polluter is certainly the industry, and due to the current problem of disposing and storing special kinds of waste, such as industrial, metal, hazardous, medical waste, rubber and sludge, the water sector is subject to great amounts of pollution, Natasa Djereg says.

According to her, the biggest problem is that this chapter requires thorough changes to be made in the economy and the current habits of neglecting environmental protection and not investing in it.

– There are numerous places in Serbia with inappropriately disposed industrial waste, namely, companies in bankruptcy or facing bankruptcy, which do not possess nor can acquire any kind of means for ameliorating the situation. Such was the case with waste-rock seepage at the Stolice mine in Kostajnik – Djereg explains.

The most expensive chapter

Nearly EUR 5 billion is needed for waste water treatment facilities in Serbia, but the question is where to get it from. As the competent ministry says for eKapija, the plan is to have the development of infrastructure in the field of waste waters financed from the state budget, the national and the provincial water funds, the budgets and funds of local self-governments, the EU funds, donations, loans... Agglomerations, the current state of infrastructure, as well as the final estimate of investments needed, will be examined through the current projects, primarily through the EAS II project.

– The majority of funds for future facilities is expected to arrive from the EU and other donors (53% of total investment costs), whereas the national participation should amount to 47%. Mechanisms for the participation of various national sources of finance are being established – the Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection says for our portal.

According to Natasa Djereg, the general financial plan, which should be included in the said negotiation position, is being prepared and will be added to it as soon as 2018. It should define the financial part of the chapter.

Donations of the governments of Sweden, Netherlands and Germany have been received so far.

As said at the ministry, the realization of the project of construction of a waste water treatment facility along with the sewerage has been initiated in the past period, and the realization of construction of certain components of the waste water collection and treatment systems in Vrbas-Kula, Leskovac and Sabac is in progress.

(Photo: Chinnapong/shutterstock.com )
Furthermore, the preparation of the required technical documentation for waste water treatment facilities in Nis, Kragujevac and Novi Sad is in progress. The next facilities, according to the ministry's plan, should be raised in Kraljevo, Brus, Blac, Krusevac, Vranje and Belgrade. It is not yet known from which funds the construction will be financed, nor by which amounts.

As recently stated by the acting city secretary for environmental protection, Goran Trivan, at the conference on the challenges of climate changes in Belgrade in Serbia, the project of the waste water solution in Belgrade will cost as much as around EUR 800 million. The source of finance for this project is not yet known either.

The mayor of Pirot has also announced the construction of one such facility, which requires around EUR 10 million. As he said, they want to raise the facility using donations.

The field of ecology and environmental protection is expensive not just financially, but in terms of citizens' health as well, Natasa Djereg says.

– The biggest challenge is how to catch up with the high environmental standards of the European Union, which are constantly being updated, seeing how the situation as it is now is very difficult, whereas it is not known where the necessary investments are to come from – Djereg said for our portal.

It is not fully clear what the true amount of water pollution in Serbia is, as the monitoring of surface and underground waters doesn't provide sufficient data. To get such data, Serbia will have to wait for the estimate by the European Commission, once it considers opening Chapter 27. Until then, the hope remains that the country's waterways will no longer be polluted by 2041.

Katarina Stevanovic
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