Islands of Waste Are Clogging European Rivers

Photos of garbage covering water in the Balkans cause outcry
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 5, 2021 3:07 PM CST
Floating Trash Endangers 'Entire Ecosystem' in Balkans
A grey heron stands Tuesday between dumped plastic bottles and barrels on the bank of the Potpecko Lake on the Lim river, near Priboj, Serbia   (AP Photo/Dragan Karadarevic)

Huge islands of waste are floating on some rivers in the Balkans, causing an environmental emergency and threatening a regional hydropower plant. Plastic bottles and bags, rusty barrels, and other garbage on Tuesday could be seen clogging the Drina river near the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad, the AP reports. Upstream, the Drina tributaries in Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia are carrying even more waste after the swollen winter waters surged over landfills in the area. The Balkan nations have poor waste management, and tons of garbage routinely end up in rivers. A broken barrier this week caused a massive congestion of garbage on the Drina that has threatened the Visegrad dam. Officials say that between 6,000 and 8,000 cubic meters of waste are pulled out of the Drina each year near Visegrad. Although the problem is not new, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro have done little to fix it even as they seek to join the European Union.

Dejan Furtula, an environmental activist from the Eco Center group, said the problem with garbage in the Drina also is jeopardizing the local community because once it is taken out, the waste is dumped on a landfill that is often on fire and whose toxic liquid flows back into the Drina. "We are all in danger here, the entire ecosystem," he said. Following a devastating war in the 1990s, the Balkans is lagging far behind the rest of Europe both economically and in environmental protection. Another problem has been dangerous air pollution in most regional cities. At the Visegrad dam, efforts began on Tuesday to clear the clogged garbage and avoid damage to the power system. In southwest Serbia, the Lim river has created a similar problem at the Potpecko accumulation lake. Images of layers of garbage covering both the artificial lake and the Drina have sparked outrage. "Horrific and shameful," read a headline in the Blic daily this week, describing the Potpecko lake as a "floating landfill."

(More pollution stories.)

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