EBRD, EU and Sweden help protect the environment and safeguard public health
Few consumers care what happens to water when it disappears down their drains. But what if our sewers were not safe or efficient? What if the water they carry was not treated and hazardous to our health and the environment that surrounds us?
Until recently this was a source of real concern to the people of Bijeljina, a city in north-eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, the municipal water company Vodovod I Kanalizacija Bijeljina and the EBRD too.
Its population grew rapidly after the 1992-1995 conflict, driven by peace, prosperity and the homecoming of thousands of residents.
But more people meant more pressure on municipal services, which now had to process larger volumes of domestic and industrial waste.
Most of the wastewater used to be disposed in septic tanks underneath or next to households. In the event of overflows or leakage, the sewage would spill into ground water aquifers, leading to their contamination.
With much of the region receiving water from ground sources and wastewater pipes often in poor condition, this posed serious health and environmental threats.
To make matters worse, nephropathy, a kidney disease caused by drinking polluted water, was also common in the north-eastern part of the country.
The need to preventing the further pollution of underground waters and reducing the risks to the population and the environment was urgent.
Addressing such regional challenges is among the EBRD’s top strategic priorities and many donors are keen to help such initiatives too.
Loans from the EBRD have now funded the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant as well as two wastewater collectors.
The project has also seen the removal of all old septic tanks, the replacement of asbestos-cement water pipes as well as the expansion of the water supply network.
A consultant hired for the project also ensured that all the facilities comply with European Union (EU) standards.
The EBRD provided €12 million over two phases of the project, while the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the European Union provided grant co-financing amounting to an extra €4 million and €6.5 million respectively.
The donor partners also funded technical cooperation to help manage and implement the project.
The EBRD’s Damir Cengic, the project’s manager, said: “this was one of the first EBRD projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the municipal and environmental infrastructure sector, and as such it became an example for other similar projects.
“The donors’ support was crucial in order to make it affordable. Technical cooperation support was key in helping the client introduce a financial and operational improvement programme focused on cost reductions and efficiency gains as well as enabling commercialisation.”
The new treatment facility is expected to serve some 8,000 households and 36,000 people. Its capacity, though, could reach up to 40,000 people, ensuring high standards for current and future residents for many years to come.