Cleaning up Presevo

Nov 10, 2015

Presevo before (above) and after (below) Photos: Tatjana Strahinjic Nikolic/UNDP

The influx of migrants and refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond in the past six months has had a major impact on Serbia. Hundreds of thousands of people have passed through the country in their attempts to the European Union.

The entry point from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to Serbia is the tiny village of Miratovac in the small municipality of Presevo.

Although support from the international community to the government in overcoming this crisis has increased, the municipality still struggles to cope with the growing demands on basic services including waste management, water, shelter, and transportation.

With winter coming, these problems will only grow in severity.

An estimated 300,000 people have passed through Presevo. With a population of just 30,000, public services are overstretched, basic goods like food and water are in short supply, and the community currently lacks an adequate workforce to provide basic services. The municipality lies in the least developed region of Serbia where unemployment rates are estimated at around 49 percent.

While other agencies are working to clear trash from migrant and refugee encampments, until recently, trash and refuse continued to pile up through Presevo. Garbage collection until now was executed without any formal plan with much of the waste being disposed at an illegal dumpsite.

In order to mitigate tensions between the overwhelmed residents and the newly arriving migrants and refugees, as well as to help clean up the town, UNDP is now working help clear the city’s refuse.

To support the scarcely resourced public utility company, UNDP helped establish a relationship with the neighbouring municipality Vranje to support regular waste collection, bringing on board a fleet of additional garbage trucks to collect and dispose of the waste at a legal dumpsite.

This work is also contributing to increasing job opportunities and livelihoods for residents. Additional waste management workers have been hired and with the injection of new workers, existing workers at the public utility company are also stepping up their commitment to getting the job done.  

Presevo resident Eshtref Kadriu is a father of two and until recently was struggling to find work. Now employed by the municipality, he is happy to be earning a wage and helping to make his community cleaner.

“Obviously, you can see the smile on my face now that I have work to do for which I will get paid and help my family, even if temporary, my life is changed and improved,” he said. “I will keep working day and night, doing my best for the city and for my family and I hope this project continues.”

Recognizing the impact on the local community and the potential for environmental damage, UNDP has also gone to work with the municipality and the garbage collection company to put in place an efficient, environmentally friendly and long-term collection plan.

Such longer term planning is critical for the municipality to better manage the continuing influx of migrants and refugees, and ensure better services and a better environment for its people in the future.

“The migrant and refugee crisis is a strain, but it need not be a burden,” said UNDP’s Aferdita Mekuli. “Presevo is beginning to finds ways to turn this tide into opportunities for improving its development trajectory over the long term. This is the key to the resilience approach.”

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