Only 14.7% of wastewater in Serbia gets treated, Malta is the only one behind us in Europe

In the budget of the Ministry of Environmental Protection in 2023, ten times more money was earmarked for subsidies for the purchase of electric cars than for wastewater treatment, although Serbia is at the very bottom with 14.7% of wastewater treated (with at least secondary treatment) list of European countries. Of us, only Malta treats a smaller amount of waste water, and the average of European Union members is much higher and amounts to 80.87%.

Guided by Eurostat data, NALED included these statistics as one of the starting points in its new Study on the diagnosis of the state of wastewater management in Serbia, where for the first time, with the support of the expert team of the company Dwoper, all data on the state and plans were listed in one place of water management.

The package of legislation concerning the water directive is one of the most demanding for countries that are in the process of joining the European bloc. In addition to large investments, the complexity of this issue is also influenced by the fact that waste water care is divided among several ministries, and the NALED study represents the most comprehensive analysis of this problem that has been done so far.

- According to the current regulation, legal entities will have to solve the issue of wastewater in the next two years, while the deadline for local governments is too long until 2040. As part of the study, we created a map that shows that there are 54 wastewater treatment plants in Serbia , of which 12 are not in operation at all, and the average age of all plants is 22 years. Bačka Topola, Leskovac, Kruševac, Vranje, Raška, Šabac have newer plants, and these cities and municipalities can be exemplary examples for what awaits us in the future - said Sustainable Development Director at NALED, Slobodan Krstović.

The study identified that the construction of 140 plants is planned, and the largest number is covered by the Serbian-Chinese project "Clean Serbia", while the rest are financed from the KfW program, EU funds, EBRD loans and own budgets. The large number of launched projects is certainly encouraging, but since 81% do not yet know what kind of technology they will have, it means that they are all in the early stages, and the construction and commissioning process can take years.

However, Krstović emphasizes that the construction of the plant must be preceded by the construction of the sewage network, to which only 67% of the population is connected. This means that a third of households still use septic tanks as the only substitute for wastewater disposal.

- According to the study's assessment, it is necessary to invest 4.2 billion euros in sewage and 1.3 billion euros in water treatment plants. According to estimates, we have about three million septic tanks, and inadequate cleaning and neglect can leave dangerous and lasting consequences for the environment. We have a long way to go, and that's why we propose to improve the coordination of all participants in the process of designing and building the sewage network and waste water treatment plant this year, and to form a Center for training personnel for the management and maintenance of a large number of planned facilities - continues Krstović.

Finally, the study looked at the management of sludge produced in the wastewater treatment process. The experience of the European Union, in which about 8.7 million tons of this dry matter is generated, shows that it is used in different ways - from application in agriculture to the production of biogas and electricity, a part goes to incineration, and the smallest percentage ends up in sanitary landfills . In our country, sludge mostly ends up in landfills, which adds to the already overcrowded waste disposal sites.

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