The harvest is expanding – Environmentalists are fighting with waste to protect the Neretva

The landfill is expanding. Opened in the 1970s, this “dump of death”, as the surrounding population calls it, was supposed to close in 2024 according to the decision of the Federal Ministry for the Environment and Tourism.

Wastewater from the Uborak landfill in the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina is believed to be polluting the Neretva River, which flows through the entire region. Environmentalists are trying to bring the case to the public and oppose the City of Mostar, whose jurisdiction is the landfill.

That landfill, located in the middle of the mountains near the border with Croatia, receives all the city’s waste. Near it flows the Sušica stream, a tributary of the Neretva river that passes through the city.

Activist Omer Hujdur claims that the stream could be polluted by waste water released by the landfill, reports Temeco.

“Excess leachate from the Uborak landfill is directly poured into the stream”.

Leachates are waters produced by a combination of rain and fermentation of buried waste and are harmful to the environment. Spills “have caused fish kills many times,” he says.

The landfill is expanding.

Opened in the 1970s, this “death dump”, as the surrounding population calls it, was supposed to close in 2024 according to the decision of the Federal Ministry of Environment and Tourism, which is responsible for monitoring the landfill. However, the expansion of Uborko is expected. In order for the men and women of Mostar not to be left without a place to dispose of waste, the Ministry made the closure conditional on the opening of a “new landfill at another location”. Since no other land was found, the Ministry approved the expansion project, so now three landfills coexist at the Uborak location. The oldest one was overfilled and then abandoned, the one currently in use will soon be full, and the new landfill will start operating in May 2024.

Waste spreads beyond the landfill. Upstream from the stream there is a hill from which the entire landfill can be clearly seen. There is a narrow road that separates Uborak from several dilapidated houses. Omer Hujdur began to question “his place” in politics. Namely, two years ago, the environmental activist joined the Narod i Pravda party and became a representative in the Assembly of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton.

“Unfortunately, the canton is not competent to manage the landfill,” explains Omer Hujdur. The owner of Uborko is the City of Mostar.

The activist emphasizes how the public authorities, responsible for the landfill, influenced the reduction in the number of association members. At the beginning, there were about 700 active members in the association Because we are concerned.

“At one point, everyone who was employed in the public sector was threatened with dismissal if they did not leave the association,” reveals the representative of the canton, who managed to keep his position in the private company thanks to the support of his boss.

“We paid fines of 50 to 60 thousand marks (25,000 to 30,000 euros) for gathering in front of the landfill,” continues the activist, talking about the blockade from December 4 to 9, 2019. At that time, 300 people dissatisfied with the work of the Ministry of Environmental Protection protested, and the City of Mostar eventually filed lawsuits against them. Since then, citizens have been celebrating that event every year and gathering on the day the blockade was lifted, which is also the World Anti-Corruption Day.

“In the beginning you think that the smell is a problem. The smell is not a problem,” concluded fifty-year-old Fuad Hujdur, the current president of the association. He is a distant relative of Omer and lives not far from the mentioned hill. He considers himself a kind of exception: after years spent in the Netherlands, the former chemical engineer returned to live in his hometown two years ago.

“My conscience prevents me from leaving again,” he admits. For him, closing the landfill is a matter of public health and democracy.

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