Montenegro to get assistance for poor water quality

Montenegro, the smaller of the two remaining republics in Yugoslavia, is to benefit from significant World Bank help in improving its poor water and sanitation system.

In the past, water supply and sanitation services were well developed in the Republic of Montenegro. However, the situation has deteriorated considerably due to limited capital investment over the last ten years when United Nations sanctions on Yugoslavia were in place, combined with inadequate maintenance and the lack of a coherent strategy for the water sector. As a result, the republic’s water and sanitation is in poor condition, especially in the coastal areas which suffer from regular supply shortages, poor water quality, and environmental degradation, all exacerbated during the summer season when tourism more than doubles the area’s population to over 500,000.

There are also important health and environmental problems associated with a number of serious cases of water supply source pollution. Montenegro lacks a clear strategy for sector development and is in need of a regulatory framework, involving the private sector, to improve the efficiency and the sustainability of water supply and sanitation services, the World Bank says.

Under the World Bank’s two-year, US$3 million (3.3 million euros) project, the environmental condition of in Montenegro’s coastal region and the quality of water supply in the Zeta Valley, near the Republic’s capital city, Podgorica, will be improved. This will primarily be achieved through the rehabilitation of a key landfill and the closing down of illicit dumps in the Kotor Bay region, a prime tourist zone, and by the completion of a water supply pipeline to replace water sources in the Zeta Valley contaminated by an aluminium processing facility.

In addition, World Bank says, only now is a governmental strategy to improve the water and sanitation sectors being put in place. This includes developing a basic institutional and policy framework for the sector to clarify asset ownership, regulate the overall functioning of the sector, a transition towards economic pricing, and establish a policy approach which improves governance, transparency, and accountability.

In the medium and long term, any strategy has to address the differences observed in different parts of the sector, such as water companies in rural areas which face an “impending crisis”, says the World Bank. At present rural water supply is carried out “in a legal and institutional vacuum, completely relying on the tradition of self-reliance and without any regulatory assurance that the rural population receives an adequate quantity of water and is not exposed to severe health risks,” the Bank says.

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