Why all this?

March 5, 2020

Why all this?

Water is indispensable – it’s a truism. Water means life, health, nature and leisure. But it is easy to forget how important good water really is: drinking water for people, water as a raw material for food manufacturers, industrial water, water for irrigation.

Serbia is a green and fertile country. The waters can withstand a lot. Not everything, of course.

Private households pollute water. For example, about half of the organic pollution of our rivers comes from them, mainly due to the lack of sewage treatment plants. Factories sometimes consume more water than is good for the groundwater table. Farms flush fertilisers, pesticides and liquid manure into the water cycle. Hydropower dams stop migration of fish and disrupt the natural balance that rivers need to clean water naturally.

Different interests, one common goal

All these interests must be reconciled. Including the protection of the river banks and floodplain landscapes. In recent years the challenges have grown steadily, as they have throughout Europe: waters become under pressure.

Since 2000, European Union has been relying on coordinated management of the waters in the river basins: so that everyone on the continent can benefit from water, and in the long term.

 The so-called Water Framework Directive aims to systematically improve water protection. The directive creates a regulatory framework for the protection of inland surface waters, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater. The overall objectives are set out in Article 1:

§  to protect and enhance the status of aquatic ecosystems and groundwater, including terrestrial ecosystems directly depending on water

§  Promoting sustainable use of water resources

§  Progressive reduction of priority substances and cessation of discharges/release of priority hazardous substances

§  Reduction of groundwater pollution

§  Reducing the effects of floods and droughts

Water protection put to the test

Serbia is participating in implementing the European Water Framework Directive. Water protection is currently under scrutiny: Together with the Serbian water authorities, the EU project " Support to policy planning in water management sector" is working to bring our processes and regulations into line with EU ones.

What does all this mean in concrete terms?

At present, scientists throughout the country are systematically recording the status of waters. Geologists, chemists, biologists and hydrologists are working on concepts to improve water quality.

Where, for example, is the development of wastewater treatment particularly urgent and can quickly have a positive effect? In which regions it is needed to urgently minimise pollution? Which options are better instead of straightening rivers? How to streamline environmental protection and flood control? What about fish stocks? And who takes care of the almost forgotten contaminated sites at abandoned industrial sites? Resources are available for this. The experienced water specialists at RWD and Srbijavode and Vode Vojvodine are managing these processes, with the EU providing expert and financial support.

Ambitious plan that pays off

Approaching the common European water policy means change, sometimes patience and persistence. By 2021 Serbia has committed itself to this process.

In a country like Serbia with its thousands of kilometres of rivers and streams, managing water sustainably according to scientifically based rules is a lot of work. And, yes: it costs money. However, the value of the "return on investment" for the country can hardly be overestimated: the prospect of a balanced water management system throughout the entire Balkans, which will permanently and reliably secure for whole Serbia that basis of life without which we can hardly survive for more than a day: healthy water from healthy waters.