For 62-year old Drago Savić, from the settlement of Lugovi, near Šamac, inhabited by the people displaced from more than 30 municipalities in BiH, the water he collects from the new well is as precious as oil since the inhabitants of that place used to drink water drawn from an old and impure well.
“The water from the (old) pump creates the so-called ‘saltpeter’, while this water creates none”, says Savić as he is pouring water into a canister from the new artesian well. Born in Vareš, Savić is among approximately 700 inhabitants of Lugovi, a settlement built after the war when the Municipality of Šamac divided a vast meadow into around 140 plots and gave them all to its new residents.
The inhabitants of Lugovi, still without water supply and sanitation, draw water from individual family wells near their houses with water sources only some ten meters below the land surface, most often of untested quality and safety. There used to be a central water well but water could be easily contaminated due to its accessibility and it was not safe for use.
Also 72-year old Sava Pavlović collects water every day. She came to Lugovi from Srnice Donje, near Gradačac. She says she can see the difference between the water from the new well and the water she bails from a nine-meter deep well at home.
“We drink water from the new well, while we use the water from our well for all other purposes”, she says.
Clean water as a condition for prevention of disease
Doctor Blagoje Simić, an epidemiologist who works at the local healthcare center in Šamac, says that bacteriologically and chemically unsafe water has been a problem for many decades which is related to the plains around the rivers Sava and Dunav where an endemic nephropathy is common. This disease eventually result in kidney failure which is the reason why patients are on hemodialysis.
“They even do not know what they drink. Nor do they know whether there are any bacteriological and chemical problems, and mainly there are. I usually say that the water in that area is not good even for washing cars. When a car is washed, there is always a white silt remaining on glass”, Simić describes home wells and the old central source of water.
A new artesian well, he says, has a preventive impact on endemic nephropathy which is common in plains with a lot of subterranean and surface water which mix and get further contaminated with the chemicals used in agriculture.
The drilling depth was 128 meters and a small facility with two faucets has been in use in Lugovi since the end of March, says Predrag Nedić, head of the Local Economic Development Service of the Šamac Municipality. The construction of the artesian well was co-funded by the European Union through the “Local Integrated Development” project implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, within the Financing Mechanism for Integrated and Sustainable Local Development. The mechanism was established in 2014 as a result of joint activities of the Republika Srpska Ministry of Administration and Local Self-Government, the Republika Srpska Ministry of Finance, the Republika Srpska Investment Development Bank and UNDP with a view to providing support to priority projects of the municipalities and towns which contribute to improving the quality of life of citizens.
The source of drinking water in Lugovi was one of the priorities in a revised Šamac Municipality Development Strategy 2016-2020, apart from other infrastructure, utility and socio-economic measures.
Nikolina Škrbić, president of the Municipal Assembly of Šamac, has been a resident of Lugovi since 2009. She says that all households were supplied with technical and drinking water from their own hydraulic accumulators which they had built in their houses, although hardly any household tested water safety. The construction of a new well was a priority for the purpose of preventing diseases in Lugovi, Škrbić says.
“The fact that the dialysis center is in Šamac tells you everything. We have not had yet a significant increase in the number of patients but we know what kind of a disease it is. We hope that this project will prevent it to a large extent”.
The construction of an artesian well in the Municipality of Šamac is part of the activities of the Local Integrated Development (LID) project related to improvement of utility infrastructure, which will create better conditions for raising the standards of living for more than 100,000 citizens in BiH.
Agriculture as a priority
The project is a part of the European Union’s programme for local development and employment, and UNDP, in cooperation with domestic authorities, through the LID project, is working towards establishing mechanisms and resources necessary for social and economic development. In Šamac, in addition to building an artesian well, the project helped the local authorities improve their services and reduce administrative costs, invest in infrastructure and work towards developing production, primarily in agriculture.
The Municipality Development Strategy recognized among priorities, Nedić explains, the importance of strengthening partnership through inclusion of the civil society and businesses in consultations on the priority projects. Velimir Maslić, senior specialist for local economic development of the Šamac Municipality, says that the Strategy recognizes agriculture as a dominant field and that efforts by local authorities will be directed towards attracting an investor willing to launch the processing of agricultural products, which in turn would result in the creation of a significant number of new jobs.
“Our budget is not a development budget, it is a social budget as there is a lack of funds, and the improvements made through the LID project represent a certain saving programme”, Maslić explains and says that the goal of those measures is the economic development of Šamac.