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Mrs. Galic standing in front of the drinking water reservoir that her Local Community Council helped to protect

Bosnian returnees protect their right to drinking water through active Local Community Councils.
– Returning to Drvar is difficult enough – both my husband and I are unemployed, two of our children are in school, we work very hard and produce 90% of our own food: we plant crops, raise cattle, gather fruit, mushrooms, hazelnuts, explainas Mrs. Miroslava Galic, a returnee and mother of three.

– We manage to sell some of the produce, we get by somehow. But I don’t know what we would do without drinking water! I didn’t believe that we would be able to protect the main source of drinking water in our town; that ordinary people would succeed in a battle with an influential public company, but our Local Community Council with the support of non-government organizations such as CGS steered our local government in the right direction and our water is safe now, continues Mrs Miroslava Galic.

In two districts of western Bosnia and Herzegovina that were hard-hit by the war, CGS (the Center for Civic Cooperation) is implementing a project to increase active public participation in local decision-making in ten municipalities. Mrs. Galic’s story refers to the district forestry company felling trees, both legally and illegally, near their water source thus endangering their clean water supply.

The project actively assisted and supported the establishment and capacity building of her Local Community Council, which then explored many avenues for protecting their water, approached all levels of government and finally found a legal option for the area to be declared of special local importance by their local government.

The Local Community Council backed by local NGOs lobbied the municipal government. Through the project, this issue was raised on local radio programs and at public debates. All of these efforts culminated in the Municipal Council adopting a decision to protect the water source as an area of special local importance.

Mrs. Galic lives in Drvar, a town in which the devastation of war is still visible. She and most of the 9,000 residents are returnees who form 15 Local Community Councils, which are in various phases of establishment. The town’s Mayor, Ms. Anka Papak-Dodig, when asked about how the local government became aware of the need to protect its source of drinking water, explained the role of the Local Community Council in raising awareness of the threat to their primary water source:
– Residents of the Local Community Council where the reservoir is located warned us about there being reductions in the volume of water at the source that supplies the entire town of Drvar with drinking water.

The local government verified their statements and concluded that the excessive felling of trees and the subsequent disappearance of moss in the forests around the water source were indeed responsible for the reduced water flow. They alerted the relevant ministries and the public institution responsible for felling the trees. The Municipal Council also adopted a decision banning the felling of trees around the water source and declaring it a protected area of importance for the water supply (options which are prescribed by the Forestry and Water Laws). Ms. Papak-Dodig added:
-This is very important for our town because all of its residents are returnees – without water, return would not be sustainable. I always say that the 20th century was the century of oil while the 21st will be a century of water. Water is the source of life, not just here but throughout the world. Our residents and the big companies, like the Forestry Company, that make profits in our town must work together to protect our forests and our drinking water.

ZULKA BALJAK & KATA MARIJAN KRZELJ
Center for Civic Cooperation
Livno, Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

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Active Local Community Councils in Bosnia and Herzegovina improve their living conditions
In ten towns in western Bosnia and Herzegovina that were hard-hit by the war, the Center for Civic Cooperation is implementing a project funded by the Olof Palme International Center (together with support from the C.S.Mott Foundation and the National Endowment for Democracy) to promote the establishment of Local Community Councils in order to increase active public participation in local decision-making and thereby increase local government accountability and attention to community needs.

 

Published: 2010-05-19

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