Kosovo faces water shortages


As spring and summer approach, municipalities urge the government to intervene and reduce water shortages.

By Enis Rexhepi for Southeast European Times in Pristina -- 11/03/14


Volunteers clean up the exposed shore area of Lake Badovc near Pristina on March 2nd. The lake's water level has dramatically fallen, threatening to leave Pristina and surrounding towns without an adequate water supply. [AFP]

Pristina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti is asking Kosovo's government to take measures to increase investment in new water sources and improve water supply management.

Pristina and surrounding municipalities have faced daily water shortages for years, but last month, authorities restricted water use to 12 hours per day.

''This situation is created not only because of the low level of rainfall but also due to poor management, lack of co-ordination and proper communication between the involved parties, misuse of water and poor planning of water resources in our region,'' Ahmeti said.

Experts said the decrease in water levels supplying Pristina is the worst in decades. Last year was the driest since 1927.

The government fully supports the water company to deal with the emergency situation and local government is expected to do the same, said Gjelosh Vataj, chief executive officer of the Regional Water Company Pristina.

"Good water management or not, the Regional Water Company Pristina works for the first time without financial losses. This has been a requirement by donors to invest in our company," Vataj told SETimes.

Kosovo has not invested in new water accumulations since the 1980s and the Pristina water company -- which was to supply water to 250,000 residents -- now serves more than 500,000.

Ministry of Economic Development (MED) officials said they arranged an urgent meeting of the inter-ministerial committee on water headed by Deputy Prime Minister Bujar Bukoshi.

They said the committee formed a working group composed of local and central government representatives to fully address the problem.

"Kosovo lacks water and has no sufficient reserves of water as Lake Badovc has only water supply for the citizens for 3 to 4 months, Batllava Lake has water for 4 to 5 months and Prelepnice in Gjilan for only one month," Ramadan Sejdiu, director of the policy and monitoring unit at the MED, told SETimes.

Sejdiu said in the short term, water can be transferred from the Gazivoda Lake in northern Kosovo to Badovci Lake and underground wells in nearby Pristina.

In the long term, however, the government needs to proceed with building a water facility in Shkabaj near Pristina, he said.

Millions of euros were spent on the water supply for municipalities, but most remain without adequate water management or have none at all, said Agron Demi, executive director of the GAP Institute in Pristina.

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"The problem of water is left in the jurisdiction of the regional water companies, which are characterised by mismanagement and lack of accountability to the government and to the municipalities," Demi told SETimes.

Demi said data from the 2013 local elections show citizens consider water supply to be the main problem they face.

"What is needed is a deep reform of the current legislation in which municipalities will assume more responsibility in terms of the right to water management and investment in new sources," Demi said.

What should the central and local governments do to ensure uninterrupted water supply? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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