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Sections of the Balkan River become a floating dump

VISEGRAD, Bosnia and Herzegovina (AP) — Tons of trash dumped in poorly regulated river dumps or directly into waterways that run through three countries end up piling up behind a trash barrier in the Drina River in Bosnia and Herzegovina. eastern Bosnia, during the wet weather of winter and early spring.

This week, the barrier once again became the outer edge of a huge floating dump filled with plastic bottles, rusting barrels, used tires, 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 its dam near Visegrad, has turned the city into an unintended regional dumping ground, local environmental activists lament.

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

“We’ve had a lot of torrential rains and floods in the past few days and a huge influx of water (from the Drina tributaries to) Montenegro which, thankfully, is 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 stretches 346 kilometers (215 miles) from the mountains of northwestern Montenegro through Serbia and Bosnia. and some of its tributaries are known for their emerald color and breathtaking scenery. A section along the Bosnian-Serbian border is popular with rafters when it’s not ‘garbage season’.

Some 10,000 cubic meters (more than 353,000 cubic feet) of trash is estimated to have accumulated behind the Drina River’s garbage barrier in recent days, Furtula said. The same amount has been extracted in recent years from this area of ​​the river.

Garbage removal takes up to six months on average. It ends up at the municipal landfill in Visegrad, which, according to Furtula, “does not even have sufficient capacity to process (the city’s) municipal waste”.

“The fires at the (municipal) landfill are still burning,” he said, calling the conditions there “not only a huge environmental and health hazard, but also a great embarrassment for 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 building efficient and environmentally friendly waste disposal systems despite applying for European Union membership and adopting some EU laws and regulations. EU.

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

Besides river pollution, many Western Balkan countries have other environmental problems. One of the most pressing is the extremely high level of air pollution affecting a number of towns in the region.

“People need to be aware of issues like this,” said Visegrad resident Rados Brekalovic.

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