The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has pledged €7 million (£4.7 million) to Bijeljina in the north eastern Republika Srpska for the project to replace dilapidated asbestos cement water pipes.

City mayor Mico Micic said: “This capital investment will solve crucial issues of environmental protection, including protection of long-term potable water resources.

“We are delighted to work on this project together with a reputable international financial institution such as the EBRD and I hope that this would pave the way for further cooperation in the future.”

A further €4.5 million (£3 million) will be provided by the Bijeljina city authorities.

The work is aimed at cutting water pollution and health hazards in the underground water system, which is the only drinking water source for around 65,000 people.

The project also aims to create 24-hours supply with coverage up from 70 to 90% coverage in the city.

Other modernisation work will include replacing rundown water mains to cut operating costs and boost efficiency while there are also plans for an upgraded water meter scheme.

Building the sewerage system is the biggest project in the area and EBRD’s first municipal infrastructure project in the country.

Bank president Jean Lemierre described it as the fruit of close cooperation with the Bosnian government.

He said: “The construction of the new Bijeljina waste water network has clear implications for health in the region.

“In the absence of this project the drinking water supply would be at risk from groundwater pollution and environmental conditions in the town of Bijeljina could continue to deteriorate.”

The EBRD has so far invested €594 million in 56 projects in the country, more than two thirds of which are in the public sector.

David Gibbs

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