Beyond the World Water Summit: How was and how is the issue of water in Kosovo?(5)

Green journalism, Më të rejat, Shkrimet autoriale

Journalist & Publicist/ Specialized in Climate Change and Environmental Journalism

Swiss millions for the people of Kosovo

While the powerful states are discussing water system changes or inter-state water transmission, Kosovo only started to see the normalization of the drinking water system after the war.

The population had lived under terrible health, hygienic and substandard living conditions, because the state system of Serbia had blocked Kosovo from developing. 

“Water is everything”

It was said above that groundwater in Germany for example is generally of very good quality and comes from wells up to 400 meters deep.  If we compare it with Kosovo, it is in our interest to know how much water we have, for example we have a tradition of opening individual wells since 90 percent of the population did not have water from the water supply system.

Before 1999 or before the war, except for cities (even in cities with peripheral neighborhoods without system water), all other areas were left out of drinking water standards. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which led a water sanitation operation in Kosovo, during 1999 it is believed that of Kosovo’s 20,000 wells, more than half were contaminated with human corpses or killed animals and with fertilizers and chemicals.

So, from these data, we understand that Kosovo has underground water since all the villages but also neighborhoods outside the urbanism of the cities were supplied with drinking water through individual private wells at a depth of 2-3 meters and up to 20 meters, depending on the territories where they were located their villages and lands. It should be mentioned that many families, even in cities, had water wells for their family needs.

While wells continue to remain in use for a smaller part of Kosovo’s population, we must emphasize the importance of the water system that the Swiss government invested in Kosovo. This investment is probably one of the most important in Kosovo, because businesses, schools, institutions, sports, recreational aspects benefited – this is how the country’s economy developed. After the war, the Swiss government started investing in four programs: “Democracy and the rule of law, water and infrastructure, economy and employment” and since 2015 investment in the health sector.

In these four sectors, Switzerland helped Kosovo every year with 20 million euros, while 100 million euros were invested in the water sector alone in these two decades. Switzerland has invested in Kosovo since 1999 in the water sector and wastewater treatment, evaluating it as a leading country in the development of infrastructure related to the health of the population and the well-being of the citizens of Kosovo.

From these projects, so far over 92% of Kosovo’s citizens have access to the water supply system, while 80% of them are managed by regional water supply companies – from the public sector.

1/3 of the population or 600 thousand citizens of Kosovo have benefited from Switzerland’s aid. Maybe for the World Water Summit this information seems negligible, but for us it is the world itself, as they themselves said at the Summit “water is everything”.

Kosovo’s invisible waters may soon become visible

Based on the data of the regulatory authority, 92 percent of the population has access to water supply from central systems that is realized through 7 regional companies. The drinking water is according to European Union standards, say officials of the National Institute of Public Health. Data from the Regulatory Authority for Water Services (ARRU) say that 1.6 million residents receive water supply services, while the rest of the residents, mainly in rural areas, have separate water supplies or individual systems, which are not managed by public service providers. So, these are private wells in citizens’ yards.

Currently, Kosovo cannot know how underground waters fluctuate, because their monitoring has only just begun, so several years must pass before we have data that can show us their fluctuations in space and time according to aquifers, where  the impact of their use can be seen, the connection with rainfall, snow melts, droughts as ongoing processes adding the element of climate change, according to the Hydrometeorological Institute of Kosovo.

Drilling and research are facilitated by Sweden

In Kosovo, for the first time since the war, last year (2022), two important projects for the monitoring of underground water were implemented. Drilling and underground water research in Kosovo started in 2006, in several river basins, especially in Morava e Binca, Lepenci and Drini i Bardhë.

During the year 2021-2022, with the help of SIDA (Swedish), 2 projects have been implemented, the first for the rehabilitation of wells and the second for the installation of sensors for monitoring underground water in 40 wells. Currently, 18 wells are monitored in the Drin basin: Ibri 8, Morava Binçës 7, and Lepenc 7, of which 9 are with online access and 3 with multipara meters.

The national program is key for water and the environment

Kosovo is suffering from the lack of planning and strategic programs in addition to the development and needs of the time as well as the increase in temperatures, weather changes, climate changes but also pollution in many dimensions and many other factors in the urban environment and in the natural environment.

The lack of a National Program that would include all levels, Kosovo’s environment will be degraded for days and more, including water, which from surface water and river pollution we have groundwater pollution.

All developed countries are taking concrete steps to adapt to climate change and the threat to human life and other species.

Science has raised the alarm that these changes are directly related to diseases, shocks from high temperatures, which affect the social and environmental determinants of health.

Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause hundreds of deaths per year, while in our country institutions do not deal with this risk, starting with the greening of urban areas and blue spaces (water), therefore many citizens during hot days will suffer from, among other things, heat stress, as happened this summer with the hottest July.

The right to access to drinking water and the right to a healthy life are equal as a human and constitutional right, but in our country neither the health nor the environmental budgets are being planned for the crises that the increase in temperatures will bring.  The scientific world has already begun to calculate the preliminary damages with the direct health costs of the bull which are estimated to be between 2-4 billion dollars per year by 2030.

Tomorrow: Water shortages can lead to wars

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