Once a pure mountain river, the Gracanka river, which flows through several villages of the Gracanica municipality, is now a source of an unbearably unpleasant smell. It seems, however, that the strange color of the river, the disappearance of flora and fauna, the tailings from the Kisnica mine present a danger not only for the people living in the area, but throughout Kosovo and beyond. In a reportage produced by Gracaniceonline with the support of KoSSev, the IOM and the British Embassy, the locals expressed their anger and concern over the river pollution, but also the groundwater issues. The institutions are the ones responsible for this situation – they claim.
Who is to blame for a possible environmental disaster? For the locals, there is no dilemma – the institutions are the main culprits.
„Serbs are endangered today and the Albanians will be endangered tomorrow. We need to raise our voice in time, because without laying blame, the people are doomed to pay the price of someone’s carelessness, lack of inspection, with their lives…” People’s health is in jeopardy – the residents of the villages of Laplje Selo, Preoce, Ugljare, Livadje warn.
Dragan Stolic, a technology engineer, said that all this odor has a dangerous effect on people’s health, expressing concern that a large number of children in Laplje Selo and Gracanica will soon start developing cancer. „Residents are not aware of what kind of price we will pay as residents of this village,“ he cautions.
„This problem has been talked about for seven years. For seven years, we have not found an adequate person to initiate a solution to this problem. And this should be a priority of the government, not only the ministry, but also the government, because we are talking about the health of people and children, not only those who live in Laplje Selo and Preoce, but all those who live next to the Sitnica, Ibar, Mitrovica, all the way to Kraljevo,” the Kosovo Deputy Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, Milena Zdravkovic stressed. High school students also protested against the pollution of the Gracanka river.
Bacteria, heavy metals and pollutants spread through land, air and water. According to locals, but also representatives of local self-government, the Gracanka was polluted by the tailings and industrial wastes of unknown pollutants. Mayor of Gracanica, Srdjan Popovic says the Pristina inspection is working around the clock on finding the pollutant, which „appears to be located on the territory of the municipality of Pristina and if this does not bear fruit then we will have to either close that sewer system or somehow take the pipes to the sewer located in Kosovo Polje.”
The tailings from a mine located on the territory of Gracanica municipality, which someone positioned right next to residential buildings and on fertile land, is an old problem for the residents of this municipality. The municipal officials claim that solving the tailings problem is their priority, which would also somewhat resolve the pollution issue of the Gracanka river.
The head of the Gracanica Urban Planning Department, Dejan Jovanovic said they have a proposal on how to „cover the tailings, make supporting walls so it doesn’t overflow.“ According to Jovanovic, the tailings, as well as the Gracanka River, present a danger not only for the people living in the area, but throughout Kosovo and beyond.
Jovanovic said that the dust from the tailings reached Pristina this summer, adding that, during the summer months, this happens to the villages in Gracanica municipality on a weekly basis.
Mayor Popovic underlined that several institutions are engaged in solving this problem and the long-term solution would be to build a wastewater treatment plant.
Our budget is small, however, and it would take 5 to 10 years to build a plant. And we need a much faster solution – he added.
Obviously, there are many obstacles to preventing an ecological disaster – the small budget of the municipality of Gracanica, insufficient involvement of the competent ministry, lack of interest of neighboring municipalities and central government.
In addition to the river pollution and the dust from the tailings, the locals expressed concern over the smoke and ashes coming from Obilic plants. They also conveyed their support to those fighting against the construction of MHPPs in Strpce, Rugova Gorge, and Donja Bitina village.
Finally, they concluded that the only way for them to live in an environment that is not hazardous to their health is with the help of their neighbors, experts, the media, the civil sector, and politicians.
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