Tons of waste dumped in poorly regulated riverside landfills or directly into waterways that flow across three countries end up turning a section of one Balkan river into a floating garbage dump. Bosnia's Drina River runs 215 miles from the mountains of northwestern Montenegro through Serbia and Bosnia. Some of its tributaries are known for their emerald color and breathtaking scenery, and a section along the border between Bosnia and Serbia is popular with river rafters—when it's not "garbage season."
River fencing installed by a Bosnian hydroelectric plant a few kilometers upstream from its dam near Visegrad has turned the city into an unwilling regional waste site during the wet weather of winter and early spring. Last week, the barrier once again became the outer edge of a massive floating waste dump crammed with plastic bottles, rusty barrels, used tires, household appliances, driftwood, and other garbage picked up by the river from its tributaries, local environmental activists complain.
"We had a lot of rainfall and torrential floods in recent days and a huge inflow of water ... which is now, fortunately, subsiding," said Dejan Furtula of the environmental group Eko Centar Visegrad. "Unfortunately, the huge inflow of garbage has not ceased." More than 353,000 cubic feet of waste are estimated to have amassed behind the Drina River trash barrier in recent days, Furtula said. Removing the garbage takes up to six months, on average. It ends up at the municipal landfill in Visegrad, which Furtula said “does not even have sufficient capacity to handle [the city’s] municipal waste."
The AP looks how the past is creating such a present: Decades after the devastating 1990s wars that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia, the Balkans lag behind the rest of Europe both economically and with regard to environmental protection. The countries of the region have made little progress in building effective, environmentally sound trash disposal systems despite seeking membership in the European Union and adopting some of the EU’s laws and regulations. Unauthorized waste dumps dot hills and valleys throughout the region, while trash litters roads and plastic bags hang from the trees. (Read more on the issue here.)