The European Union at work
The European Agency for Reconstruction in
Dealing with Montenegro 's pollution: untreated sewage
|In Pljevlja sewerage water freely flows into the local streams and creeks.|
Lurking beneath the water in Montenegro 's rivers and lakes is pollution, and most of it comes from our toilets, our showers, and our kitchen sinks. This is no secret, it can be seen clearly. Take, for example, the village of Pljevlja, where children play, and residents go about their daily lives, in full view of pipes leaking raw sewage into local streams.
The problem, highlighted by EU experts, is that Montenegro lacks even the basic facilities needed to treat its wastewater. Only in Podgorica, the capital city, can you find an operational wastewater treatment facility; everywhere else, sewage is dumped untreated. There is another problem: much of Montenegro 's sewerage system is in dilapidated condition and severely under-maintained; or, in some towns, it was simply never built or was incomplete, due to a lack of money.
"Untreated waste water is damaging the environment and poses a serious threat to peoples' health," says Gerry Roberts, a wastewater expert working in Montenegro on behalf of the European Union.
The EU is funding experts to draft planning documents that identify what must be done to stem the flow of wastewater pollution in Montenegro . These "master plans" are crucial if Montenegro is to raise the necessary funds such modernisation would entail.
"The cost of fixing the problem will be high because many cities and towns will need to start from nothing," explains Mr Roberts. He cites an example: to build the facilities Montenegro needs to treat its wastewater in the central & northern regions would cost roughly €80 million.
"Investment is going to play a critical role since public funds are scarce in Montenegro and external assistance cannot cover the bill," continues Mr Roberts.
Mr Roberts says the potential investment is out there amongst donors and international development banks, but these organisations will want to see an investment strategy that outlines quite clearly where the money needs to go and how it will help.
The EU has funded two master plans, one for the south of Montenegro, the other covering the central & northern regions. Both plans list what needs to be done and estimates the costs involved; they also propose institutional and legislative changes to improve government regulation of wastewater treatment and harmonise laws to those of the EU.
The plans map out a three-phase course of action over the next 25 years. Under the first phase, the aim by 2009 is to have finished any incomplete sewage pipes and to build a sufficient number of wastewater treatment plants to cover all of Montenegro.
The government is expected to adopt both plans and present them later this year to potential donors and investors.
EU puts driver safety first, but eyes future investment
|Many roads in Montenegro are built in river canyons and galleries are needed to protect road users from falling rocks.|
Montenegro 's mountainous terrain can pose serious problems for drivers: the edges of roads often subside, tunnels have no lighting, steeper hills can be slippery in the wet, and, perhaps most dangerous of all, sections are prone to rock slides.
Since 2001, the EU has intervened several times with finance to improve conditions for drivers in Montenegro. It has added non-slip road surfaces; strengthened several sections of roads prone to subsidence; rehabilitated tunnels so they are safer; and the EU built a special protective "gallery" against falling rocks along a section of road between the coastal towns of Tivat and Budva.
This year, the EU will help again: it plans to build a similar protective gallery along the highway between Kolasin and Mojkovac. Construction will cost €850,000.
In an effort to promote economic growth in the Balkans, the EU is helping the region improve its infrastructure, including transport, which is essential to moving people and goods from one place to another. Neil Bolland, a Programme Manager with the European Agency for Reconstruction, which manages the EU's assistance transport in Montenegro, says: "Every year, more and more people and businesses are using the roads, the railways, and the airports. Yet, little investment has been injected into transport infrastructure over the past decade, and the system can simply no longer cope."
The European Agency for Reconstruction recently engaged EU transport experts to help Montenegro 's Ministry of Transport improve laws and raise much-needed investment.
"There is still the occasional need for the EU to step in and help Montenegro deal with a dangerous problem, such as rocks falling onto a major highway. But our day-to-day energies are focused on helping raise investment," continues Mr Bolland.
The European Investment Bank, an EU-funded development bank, has committed €35 million to improve roads in the north of Montenegro, modernise the rail link between the busy Port of Bar and the Serbian border, and upgrade two international airports, including Podgorica.