December is the Month of water - let's protect our rivers and lakes

Association 3e, the Network of Inspectors of Serbia, and NALED launched today the " Month of Water" campaign, during which all interested citizens, businesses, and civil society organizations will be able to nominate proposals for the protection of water resources through the website. The campaign is part of the "Public-Private Dialogue for Growth" project implemented by NALED and the Public Policy Secretariat and funded by USAID.

Project partners are preparing a condition analysis of wastewater management in Serbia, which has already identified some potential solutions, including cooperation of businesses and local governments in building treatment facilities, harmonization of legislation and strengthening of inspections, as well as mapping of all direct wastewater discharge into rivers and drains.

These and other potential improvements in water protection were also discussed at today's webinar for businesses, dedicated to the new rulebook that will expand the obligation to report discharged waters from more than 860 (of which only 330 actually reported) to 4,500 companies.

The next online workshop with representatives of reference laboratories for water quality testing is planned for December 15, while the last one (December 23) will present the analysis and recommendations obtained through public-private dialogue, while the final analysis will be submitted to the public and institutions after the campaign.

During the " Month of Water" campaign, we want to familiarize businesses with the best practices that will help them harmonize their work with the requirements. European regulations stipulate that companies that discharge wastewater need to have their emissions comply with the prescribed values by 2025, while also solving the problem of treatment. Until then, it is necessary to develop an action plan for gradually reducing the amount of pollution and reporting on this isue to the competent institutions. In addition, it is important to improve inspection oversight through potential transferring of competencies to the local level, because compliance with regulations in this area is controlled by only six republic inspectors - says Srđan Gajić, president of the Association for Education, Ecology, and Energy (3e).

Currently, only 5% to 10% of water in Serbia is being treated, and out of a total of 400 million cubic meters discharged per year, the largest part comes from households, of which less than two-thirds are connected to the sewage system. They are followed by industry, which released 119 million cubic meters in 2019, according to the data of the Statistical Office.

Gajić points out that a big problem in this area is the lack of knowledge about regulations and weak communication between businesses and local governments. Given the large investments expected from both sectors, better cooperation is necessary in order to arrive at the best solutions for the treatment of both municipal and industrial waters.

Part of the problem can be solved by local governments, by constructing their own wastewater facilities. In the past few decades, a little more than 50 plants have been built, of which about 30 are still operational, and only a dozen work according to the highest standards. Cities and municipalities with local plants have a greater advantage in attracting investments because they save investors millions that would be used for building their own capacities.

In addition to the 1.5 billion euros needed for the plants, local governments will have to invest 2.5 billion in the renovation of the existing and construction of a new sewage network, in order to successfully collect wastewater and direct it to treatment plants. This would help increase the number of households covered by some degree of wastewater treatment, which currently amounts to just over 10%.


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