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The Sava River embankment: Illegal construction threatens the water supply and flood protection

On the Sava embankment an illegal settlement was built in the past few years where there are wells from which the citizens of Belgrade get water supply. The embankment that is now threatened was built for the defense of New Belgrade from floods.

Facebook: Illegal houses on Sava river banks
Photo: Facebook / Illegal houses on Sava river banks

Both the embankment for flood control and water supply of the city are threatened because of the houses built without permits and the fact that the institutions have for years tolerated illegal construction in this strategically important site.

Among the "weekenders" who built without permits are family members of President Tomislav Nikolic.

According to Inajder’s investigation, on 22 July 2016 sanitary inspectors of the Department for Environmental Protection and Water inspection at the Ministry of Health visited the Sava River embankment and found that 16 wells located on the site are threatened by the activities of the weekenders.

Many objects are built close to the wells and restrict the access to the wells, as well as any necessary interventions on them.

Many of the objects are built on the drains of wells, some persons carried out filling of the field. According to a representative of the water distribution system, by doing so, they buried closures and discharges of some of the wells and made it hard to intervene on them,” says the official note of sanitary inspectors.

Public company Belgrade Waterworks and Sewerage gets water supplies from the wells on the left bank of the Sava where the illegal settlement on the Sava embankment was built.

Building of weekend houses did not only endanger the water supply but it also increased the risk of flooding.

The forest at the Sava embankment, which is not only supposed to protect against floods but also to reinforce the embankment, has been cut in order to make building of houses possible.

“It should be noted that all the buildings are illegally constructed in the unprotected part of the Sava River, in front of the embankment, next to the water intakes. Failure to prevent such activities (construction of buildings, cutting of trees) will threaten not only water intakes, but will endanger the flood protection, so solving these issues needs to raise to a higher level,” concludes the official note of sanitary inspectors.

Insajder journalists were given the official note of sanitary inspectors under the number 530-02-3065 / 2016-10 of the Ministry of Health, according to the Law on Access to Public Information. However, the Ministry in response to Insajder stated that the aforementioned note does not apply to illegal objects on the Sava embankment.

“Official Note you requested under the number 530-02-3496 / 2016-10 does not apply to the construction of objects next to the wells on the left bank of the Sava River,” the Ministry of Health “explains,” although it is clear from the notes that these are precisely the objects in question.

Insajder journalists have for months been investigating what is controversial when it comes to tacit license from the state, allowing illegal construction on the Sava embankment from 2009 until today.

This story has become topical a few days ago when there was a debate between the City Manager Goran Vesic and the President of the Municipality of New Belgrade Aleksandar Sapic about the demolition of illegal buildings in New Belgrade.

The fact is, however, that a strategically important place for the city is threatened because the state has for eight years failed to respond adequately.

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