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Feature 01 Nov 17

Sarajevo Demands Solution to Water Woes

Bosnia’s Federation MPs has approved a deal with the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, EBRD, that aims to resolve water supply issues in the Bosnian capital, which have left Sarajevans without continuous running water for a least a decade.

Mladen Lakic
BIRN
East Sarajevo
Almost 300 people protested in Sarajevo on October 17 demanding a full-time water supply for the Bosnian capital. Photo: Mladen Lakic/BIRN

After the house of peoples of the parliament of Bosnia’s Federation entity approved a 25-million-euro loan deal with the EBRD on October 30, the road is paved for decade-long troubles with the water supply in the Bosnian capital to be resolved.

Some residents in Sarajevo complain that while the city could survive a siege during the war, life in peace is still a struggle.

“Even when the water finally comes it is full of mud and I need to keep it running, making my bill even bigger. Nothing makes any sense,” 63-year-old Sadeta Basic told BIRN.

Sarajevo has now faced these problems for a decade. It started with a reduction in supply during the night in only some parts of town. But more recently, Sarajevans have been without water both day and night, across almost the entire city.

“We have to just get by with barrells and bottles of water because our pipes are for air only,” 28-year-old Irma Hajdukovic told BIRN.

“Somehow, we get used to the fact that we don’t have water from midnight untill 6am in my neighbourhood but now, even during the day we don’t have water all the time,” she said.

“I tried to do some laundry yesterday, but the water supply was off and on all day. What if it damages our washing machines, who will pay for that?” she asks.

Sarajevo Canton Prime Minister, Dino Konakovic told TV network N1 in September that the situation would soon end. “We are doing our best to come up with short-term but quick solutions in order to avoid water supply problems and provide water 24/7,” he said.

But, so far, no progress has been made.

With an ageing network, some parts from as far back as the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, only last part-renovated in the 80s, Konakovic faces a huge task. He has previously said that only a full reconstruction of the network can resolve the situation.

In May this year, EBRD and Bosnian authorities signed a loan agreement worth 25 million euros. EBRD stated that the loan will finance investments to reduce water losses in the network and improve the quality of services provided by the water utility company.

In a meantime, a group called the “Vodoodbrana Sarajeva“, or Sarajevo Water Treatment, has brought almost 300 people onto the streets outside the Sarajevo government buildings on October 17 demanding a full-time water supply for the Bosnian capital.

“We want to know why we don’t have water and what the solutions are,” Anes Podic of the NGO Eko action told BIRN.

Awaiting a permanent solution, Sarajevans have had to find ways around the problem.

“I always have canisters with water in the bathroom because even if I get in the shower while the water is running, it can always suddenly turn off and then what should I do?” Damir Tokaca says.

“We always have to be prepared to live without water because we never know for how long we will have to go without,” he said.

Protestor, Hajrudin Causevic said a situation where he can’t have a shower after work is humiliating. “My pipes can be dry but the bills will keep coming on time,” he says.

Protestors say the government must find a solution.

“I am here with my one-year-old son – can you imagine how hard it is to give a bath to a child with a bottle of water. I can’t say to him that the water is off and he needs to wait,” another protestor, Arman, said.

No government officials responded to the group.

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