10 Facts ABout Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Public health outcomes and economic status both rely greatly on a nation’s sanitation infrastructure. Sanitation encompasses the regular, efficient and safe collection and disposal of waste, whatever its source. Improper procedures and insufficient waste management facilities have led to poor sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but recent efforts show promising improvements. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. The political system in Bosnia and Herzegovina divides waste management responsibilities among different levels of governance. Responsibility for environmental policy, including sanitation policy, lies with both the federal government and the two political entities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republic Srpska, but not with the cantonal and municipal governments. The two entities and their constituent cantons formulate laws and regulations for waste management, while these two levels of government work share the responsibility of designing management strategies with municipal governments.
  2. At the federal level, the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER) oversees and manages international initiatives and accords that involve the political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Since the enactment of the Law on Ministries and Other Bodies of Administration of BiH in March 2003, MoFTER’s role also includes ensuring that the political entities follow basic environmental standards. As a result, the political entities do not have absolute power when it comes to environmental policy, with MoFTER acting as a harmonizing and coordinating force.
  3. The country’s two political entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, both suffer from a severe lack of operable wastewater treatment plants. Only two of Republika Srpska’s 64 municipalities have treatment facilities. Though the country improved biological treatment processes in 2009, the quality of these methods declined the following year.
  4. In 2016, Bosnia and Herzegovina produced approximately 1,243,889 tons of municipal waste. This quantity measures out to an estimated 354 kg per year and 0.97 kg each day. Landfills received 952,975 tons of waste that year, a 1 percent decline from 2015. Public solid waste transportation disposed of approximately 920,748 tons of waste in 2016, a 0.1 percent reduction from 2015. The vast majority of waste in the country came from markets, street cleaning and other public sources. Packaging waste made up only 1.9 percent of waste in 2016, and household waste only constituted another 3.6 percent. Recreational areas, such as gardens and parks, generated only 2.8 percent of waste. Mixed municipal waste made up all of the remaining 91.7 percent, more than 844,000 metric tons.
  5. Registered local landfills serve as the endpoint for the majority of publicly-collected waste, but rural areas with little access to public collection services discard their waste in the far-more-common illegal landfills which do not follow sanitation standards. There are only 43 registered landfills in Republika Srpska and 44 in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but nearly 590 known illegal landfills. In legal and illegal dumping alike, the separation of hazardous and non-hazardous materials rarely occurs, posing a significant problem for public health in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
  6. The unsafe conditions in a residential landfill in the city of Mostar, in southern Bosnia and Herzegovina, provoked protests in 2019. Although it has existed since the 1960s as a landfill for household waste, recently it has allowed companies to dump dangerous waste products and sewage treatment sludge. Locals deeply concerned by news that the waste might contain hazardous toxins called PCBs prompted Mostar authorities to initiate an investigation.
  7. Despite some legislative efforts to follow the EU’s environmental standards, garbage pollutes Bosnia and Herzegovina’s rivers. The civil war in the 1990s resulted in the neglect of the country’s waste management infrastructure. A scarcity of recycling facilities has led to trash islands that now clog the country’s rivers. Locals report that organizations remove an estimated 800,000 tons of trash from the Drina river alone every year.
  8. In 2018, public waste utility KJKP Rad announced the planned construction of a recycling facility for electronic and electrical waste in Sarajevo, the country’s capital. The facility will also accept the city’s solid waste, construction waste and even soil. A hall containing presses and conveyor belts will process the waste brought by Sarajevo locals. Though electrical and electronic waste collection companies already exist, KJKP Rad’s new facility will be the first in the country to recycle waste deposited on site.
  9. In October 2019, the Sarajevo Canton Assembly discussed the creation of a waste incinerator as a solution to the canton’s waste management issues. Though the facility’s construction cost approximately 122.8 million euros, the incineration of waste would not only improve sanitation but also efficiently generate energy for the city. This prospective facility would greatly relieve the burden on the Smiljevići regional waste management center and would be one more step toward improving Bosnia and Herzegovina’s waste management and sanitation.
  10. International attention is also being directed at sanitation problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina. An initiative to improve the country’s waste management infrastructure with support from the Swedish development agency SIDA and the World Bank began in 2016 and offers several strategies to improve the system. Proposed policies include the design of a more feasible data-reporting system, expanding the trash collection fleet, designing and implementing better organized and less expensive waste collection systems, ensuring greater stakeholder involvement in waste management initiatives, improved communication with citizens, implementation of environmental taxes and even tariff reform. With additional time and data, authorities hope that these strategies will improve sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Since gaining independence in the 1990s, sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina has remained a problem. Public health hazards that also threaten economic stability emerged from the neglect that comes with political upheaval. Nevertheless, efforts made to address current shortcomings, such as the construction of new recycling and incineration facilities, herald a brighter future for sanitation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr