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For over 60 years, the inhabitants of the Vrapčići settlement near Mostar have lived next to a dump. They request the authorities to remove the dump. Instead, its expansion is planned.

Written by: Vanja Stokić; Photo & Video: Ajdin Kamber

Husnija Greljo has lived in Vrapčići for the last 20 years. In close vicinity of the Uborak dump. He moved here with his family after the war but could not even imagine what his life would be like here.

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“As for the settlement itself, it’s great. There’s no noise, it’s secluded and very nice to live in. However, the major problem is the dump. It pollutes. It’s unbearable. In particular, when the winds come, it’s unbelievable how rubbish is carried by the wind, all the way to the town. Especially when it’s a north wind. Animals come, dogs come, seagulls scatter rubbish, it’s crazy”, says Husnija Greljo.

He says he would not have moved here if he knew what the living conditions would be. Nevertheless, he had no choice after the war.

“You know what the situation was after the war. People looked for any place to live, to protect their children. They made use of all that and this is what we got. This is my land and I planted potatoes and tomatoes and many other vegetables here but nothing could grow here. If something grows, after all, those plants get totally dry and wither. I watered them, I have water here. Have a look at this collard. This is abnormal, one mustn’t eat it. This is absolutely unbearable”, he tells us while showing us the vegetables he grows.

Husnija Greljo; Photo: Ajdin Kamber

The Penela family live close to his house. They are glad we show interest in the Uborak dump but they would not stand in front of the camera. The daughter Amina is the only one willing to talk.

“The stench is unbearable during summer, at 40 degrees. People can’t open the windows to air their houses because the stench is unbearable. There are invasions of mosquitoes, bugs, flies etc.” says she.

She is rather emotional when she speaks. The people who live here have been protesting against the dump for years. That caused them different troubles, even conflict with the police.

“The locals have fought against the dump since 2015. We wrote petitions and knocked on so many doors. However, the authorities ignored us; we received no response. In June 2019, we gathered, sat down and decided to block the dump. We blocked the dump for several days to send a message to the local authorities that we no longer wanted and could bear the dump”, say Omer Hujdur of the Association “Jer nas se tiče” (Because We Care).

Omer Hujdur; Photo: Ajdin Kamber

He points out that the environmental impact study was done only after 60 years. The dump has to be rehabilitated and a wastewater treatment plant installed. This is exactly what has been planned, says the Acting Director of the public utility named Deponija Mostar (Mostar Dump), Mr Mirhad Grebović.

“A new administration of the City of Mostar has risen the funds to modernize the dump and, within that project, have the wastewater treatment plant installed. However, the implementation of those projects, i.e., the possibility of spending these funds is currently suspended since the association “Because We Care” filed a lawsuit against the environmental permit issued by the Federal Ministry of Environment and Tourism to JP Deponija Mostar. Our current situation is that we have funds available for capital projects at the Mostar dump but we cannot use them as our environmental permit is currently blocked by the “Because We Care” association.

Mirhad Grebović; Photo: Ajdin Kamber

However, he also mentions the dump area should be expanded to 2.4 hectares. As he says, the expansion is planned by the environmental permit and would be sufficient for waste disposal in the next five years.

“We don’t obstruct anything. It’s an attempt to get dump expansion permission based on its rehabilitation. They have included the expansion and rehabilitation of the dump in the same plan. Either way, we won’t allow anything until a solution is found”, says Omer Hujdur.

Photo: Ajdin Kamber

He proposes closing the dump and finding a new location for waste disposal. In a location where nobody is endangered.

“Of course, the locals no longer trust the authorities. The new dump must be located so as not to endanger anybody in Mostar and Herzegovina. So that no one goes through what we went through. We’ll be safe only when the dump is deleted from the spatial plans of the city of Mostar and the canton. Otherwise, we won’t give up our demands no matter how we’ll have to put them forward and satisfy them. If we have to form blockades again, we’ll do it because we can’t live beside the dump here”, says Hujdur.

The Uborak damp has been active since the 1960s. At first, it was an illegal dump that used to be further from the settlement than today. However, organized waste disposal began later, with the dump expanding towards the settlement and vice versa. Now the dump and the settlement are a few dozen meters away.

The dump receives municipal waste from Mostar.

“The stress is on the waste from medical institutions located in Mostar, but this is only municipal solid waste. In no case is medical waste dumped at this landfill, not to mention animal waste”, says Mirhad Grebović.

He calls the representatives of the “Because We Care” initiative for dialogue and agreement, pointing out that a committee to find a new location for the dump has been established.

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