Advisor, Regionalni vodovod
“By the law of nature these things are common to mankind: the air, running water, the sea, and consequently the shores of the sea” Institutes of Justinian
Dear readers and colleagues,
We live in a time where the world has become a ‘global village’, where the activities or problems of one country are reflected in the rest of the countries, or from one entity in a country (society) to all the others. The essential and historical question to be asked is: can the world progress economically without threatening the survival of the planet, i.e. how can sustainable development be ensured?! The concept of sustainable development was promoted by the World Commission on Environment and Development with the definition:
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The question, or rather the dilemma, that arises before us is whether we are capable of achieving this in everyday practice, i.e. can we satisfy our present needs while preserving what belongs to us by the laws of nature: the air, drinking water, the sea and the seashore? Of course, not only are we capable, but we must be capable, since this is an obligation to the present and future generations. This requires an elaborate collective approach to all activities, as well as a great degree of both individual and collective responsibility. Everything is connected and intertwined. That is why there must first be synergy at the national level, then at the regional level, and finally at the global level. The application of science must serve progress and environmental protection, because any irresponsible behaviour toward the environment is directly reflected in all of us, and especially the future generations. The best example is climate change
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which threatens the existence of planet Earth in its current form, and consequently of mankind. It is a consequence of accelerated industrial development in the 20th century, which was based on an intense exploitation of non-renewable natural resources. As a result of such development, an adverse effect on the environment occurred along with global climate change.
Namely, the present economic model of the majority of states and companies implies the maximum exploitation of our planet’s resources in order to produce as many products as possible, most of which end up as waste. Such an economic model has been identified as the linear economy model, with the main paradigm: take – make/ use – dispose. It is quite clear that this model is not sustainable both from the perspective of environmental protection and from the perspective of economic profitability. The environment is threatened by the overexploitation of natural resources. It is also threatened by excessive disposal, which also implies that the value of the materials contained in the waste is lost, along with the money necessary for additional production. There is one piece of information that is alarming enough in itself and calls for urgent changes: in 2019, humanity used an equivalent of 1.7 Earths to provide the necessary resources and absorb waste. If we keep in mind that the planet needs 1.7 years to regenerate what humanity uses in one year, it is clear how far behind we are and what sort of problems will arise for the planet, and consequently for all of us, if this rate is maintained in the upcoming years. The rational response to such a condition would be to introduce a circular economy, i.e. green economy, which should harmonise the growing needs of humanity with the limits of our planet. Green economy has been defined by UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) as “an economy that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” This economy advocates above all a limited use of natural resources, reduction of waste, as well as its reuse through recycling. In this way, new products and energy are created. Therefore, circular economy represents a new approach which integrates economics and waste management systems. It implies the circulation of material and its reuse, which simultaneously means that much less energy and water is spent (in some cases even >90%). This concept is starting to gain traction both in national economies and in the production of the leading global companies. The idea is to achieve the cycle ‘product-waste-product’, i.e. the concept of ‘zero percent waste’.
Unfortunately, the transition from a linear to a circular or green economy is a very complicated and responsible process. It requires, above all, changes in lifestyle and thinking.
We have dedicated this issue of the magazine to the search for answers to these and many other questions, as well as to the activities of numerous subjects that have attempted to provide an answer, along with an overview of the current condition of the environment.
For the third time, we are providing topics related to aggregations in the water sector from individual countries. In this issue, we have presented such experiences from Croatia, Italy and Romania. All these experiences help us to commit to aggregations and to come up with the best possible solutions in that regard. Namely, aggregations ensure the uniform and rational management of waterworks; they rationalise production and reduce its costs.
In the second part of the magazine, within the “Others write” section, we’ve dealt with the topic of “Global climate change,” because of its seriousness, which we’ve already pointed out. By republishing a number of texts from other sources, which analyse the problems of climate change, we wished to once again draw attention to this issue and to call for full mobility with the aim of preventing the problems that arise due to climate change. At the same time, we wanted to show what it means to have hygienically fit water, i.e. what sorts of problems (diseases) can be caused by the use of hygienically unfit water. All these data represent a cause for worry, a reminder and a request to take an absolutely responsible approach.
As a responsible social subject, the Chamber of Economy of Montenegro made an attempt, through the organisation of the Ninth International Economic Conference, to provide answers to many of the questions that arise before us each day, and to outline the future course of action. The choice of the topic (“Synergy – the Key to the Region’s Success”), the choice of respectable presenters, over 600 participants—representatives of governments, the international and business community, scientists and professionals—made this event one of the most important economic events in South-Eastern Europe. The Conference was organised in cooperation with the Chamber Investment Forum of the Western Balkans on 25 October 2019 in the Splendid Hotel in Bečići. Recognising the importance of the Conference and of the topics in focus, PE “Regional Water Supply System for the Montenegrin Coast” decided to be the general sponsor of the Conference, so it could contribute to its success. The Conference was opened by the President of the Government Duško Marković and the President of the Chamber of Economy of Montenegro Vlastimir Golubović. While stating that the Montenegrin economy has been recording stable growth rates for a decade, Prime Minister Duško Marković sent a strong message about future progress: “We need creative jobs, active science and research hubs, new knowledges, credible international partners and centres of economic activity which would attract not only our own, but also the citizens of neighbouring countries. That is the only way to approach modern demographic challenges.” “Only strong regional cooperation and the joining of resources can create a synergic effect to swiftly change the economic picture of the region in accordance with European standards,” said the President of the Chamber of Economy Vlastimir Golubović. That is why, he stated, the choice of the topic of the Conference, “Synergy – the Key to the Region’s Success”, put the emphasis precisely on regional cooperation as a precondition for strengthening stability, competitiveness, as well as the overall economic capacity of the Western Balkans region.
In order to improve the region’s development, it is necessary to regulate the labour market and to ensure the necessary qualified workforce, to improve the digital, energy and transport infrastructure, said Ulrik Vestergaard Knudsen, who took part in the event in the capacity of the Deputy Secretary-General of OECD. He especially pointed out that it was necessary to further improve and structure the business environment with the aim of attracting investments from Western countries, while increasing export not only to Western countries but also to the region, because that is one of the key problems as well.
The Conference included panels with highly important topics: “Green economy and sustainable development”,
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“Energy in the Balkans – the current situation and the future prospects”, “Tourism as a regional joint product”, “Water stress global challenges in the 21st century”, “Transport infrastructure as an indicator of the regional (under) development”, “Education, employment and demographic trends” and “Digitisation and innovations as development opportunities”.
Each of these topics is a story in itself, but still they are just a part of a whole – the society. In their analysis, the emphasis was placed on an economic but also a sociological approach. All topics were analysed professionally and at a praiseworthy level. The analysis of each topic showed its currency, but also its connection to other topics, thus indicating the need for synergy at both the national and the regional level, and beyond.
In the context of the topics discussed at the Conference, I will give myself the freedom to underline that education, in the full sense of the word, lies at the core of any society’s development. Education should provide knowledge both to young and old generations. It is permanent and, in an era of rapid technical and technological developments, it requires continuous learning and refreshing. Education should serve the overall development of the society, but it should also teach and develop an awareness about the need for environmental protection. The fast fluctuation and movement of people within national, regional and global borders particularly contribute to a higher and faster circulation of educated people. From the perspective of the national economies of countries which “export educated professionals”, this is a very serious problem. Only a balance of living standards within the region can mitigate this problem. A lack of professional workers is a problem faced not just by us, but by all countries in the Western Balkans. A well-designed policy should satisfy all these needs, i.e. educate young people but also keep them here to the benefit of the society. Whether this will be achieved by improving the standard of personnel, through credits and scholarships or some other models – that remains an open question. The progress of individual regions and of the world as a whole depends on our success in educating both young and old people, teaching them new things about technology, ensuring their digital literacy, but also guiding them to use their knowledge for the benefit of development without harm to the environment.
Our country, as well as other Western Balkans countries, bases its development on tourism. In addition to more and more high-class hotels that are built, it is necessary to ensure the staff for their operation. Young people, especially the most capable ones, go to countries where the salaries are better. The region is connected and must come up with a joint offer in order to be competitive at the global level and attract a larger number of tourists. Tourism-related interconnection depends on better transport infrastructure – fast and high-quality roads. One thing that doesn’t require special resources is an agreement among the Wester Balkans countries to reduce wait times at border crossings. If tourists lose almost a day on the border while entering and leaving a country, for them those are lost days and they are certainly not going to wish to come again. This is precisely the direction which the discussions took as they were pointing toward connectedness and intertwinement, i.e. the mutual dependence of various subjects; the same goes for the adopted conclusions and recommendations.
As would be expected of a magazine of this pro-
file, we ensured special coverage of a panel that was interesting for us all – “Water stress global challenges in the 21st century”. Likewise, there was room for the Second International Water Conference – Montenegro which was held on 16–18 October 2019 at the “Karisma” Hotel, Ulcinj and was organised by the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro and the Association of Waterworks of Montenegro with the support of the Regional Capacity Development Network (RCDN).
The panel showed that the countries of the region are not exposed to water stress, but also that climate change posed the greatest risk in terms of water stress, along with failures to act or wrong actions in this field. One of the messages heard on the panel was that attention should especially be paid to the preservation of the protection zones of water sources, but also to the rational use of water. It was pointed out that, if there is a desire to achieve a green economy, then water losses in the local water supply system must not exceed 65%. Expectations that there will be no water stress in the region are justified only to the degree to which all subjects in this field demonstrate seriousness and responsibility. This was precisely the context of the presentations and discussions at the Second International Water Conference – Montenegro. We were glad to hear that there were plans to initiate and implement the Non-Revenue Water Management Programme, which is a good mechanism for strengthening the efficiency and establishing the profitability of waterworks. Special emphasis was placed on the challenges in the management and maintenance of the system and wastewater treatment plants.
Everything that has been presented in this segment of the magazine clearly indicates that a new policy must be adopted in this field, starting from water planning and management, institutional organisation, new legal regulations, while keeping in mind that all this requires the involvement of the broadest community and each individual subject in this field. What needs to be urgently eliminated in the water sector, or reduced to the lowest possible degree, are water losses in water supply networks, as well as its irrational use.
The activities of the Regional Water Supply System in the period between the two issues of the magazine have found a special place in this issue. A careful analysis shows that they are fully in line with the stated considerations, i.e. that they are an example of the application of the green economy in practice. They are the best indicator of the attention, professionality and responsibility with which the RWSS approaches the resolution of all these problems, and they demonstrate the RWSS’s efforts to contribute to the overall development of the society. The RWSS has been regularly supplying the Montenegrin coast with water for ten years now, thereby making a maximum contribution to the development and improvement of the standard of living and earning, both on the Montenegrin coast and in Montenegro as a whole. At the same time, looking ahead and wanting to prevent water shortages in the future, it takes decisive steps toward the development and improvement of the water sector in Montenegro, and beyond. These activities are a result of the synergy between the Government of Montenegro, competent ministries, local waterworks, coastal municipalities, international institutions and banks such as the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Regional Water Supply System. Thanks to this synergy, on the basis of the prepared developmental projects of the
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RWSS, with the full cooperation of the coastal municipalities, competent ministries, the EBRD has allocated credit funds in the amount of €24 million, for which the Government of Montenegro provided guarantees. These funds are intended for the further development of the Regional Water Supply System, i.e. the completion of the First Phase of its construction, the initiation of the Second Phase of its construction (expanding capacities), as well as for the start of the implementation of the Third Phase – the construction of a secondary network. For the first time, the citizens of Dobre Vode and Veliki Pijesak are going to be able to exercise their right to water, guaranteed by the United Nations, which implies that everyone has access to water within 200 m from their dwellings. The Municipality of Herceg Novi is going to be connected with a new pipeline to the Regional Water Supply System, whereas the citizens of Kotor and Tivat are going to be provided with larger quantities of water. All of this is a crucial precondition for the further development of the tourism industry and of Montenegro in general.
On the other hand, while anticipating future events, the RWSS has been and still is fostering a developmental component. It was recognised as such by many international partners that would like to cooperate with it in the implementation of its numerous projects. Through visits to the RWSS and the Bolje Sestre Spring, they could all get to know the RWSS, its capacities, possibilities and development plans. So, during their respective visits, businessmen from Saudi Arabia expressed their interest in implementing the project for the export of water via tankers, while businessmen from the Chinese city of Ningbo expressed their interest in the project for the export of bottled water and the production of packaging. They also showed an interest in cooperating with the RWSS on the generation of solar and hydro power.
In this period, the RWSS was unjustly exposed to certain pressures from some institutions within the system. As time goes by, it becomes more and more clear that the RWSS faced many troubles in the previous year through no fault of its own, such as a blocked account (for 268 days) which called into question the survival of this water supply system, as well as unjust damages in the amount of €12 million, on the basis of judgments in lawsuits brought by Strabag. There was also some pressure from the State Audit Institution. Thanks to the skilfulness of the management, the sense of unity and the responsible work of the employees, and the full support of the numerous partners, the RWSS survived and enabled Montenegro to achieve record tourism-related profits in the past year. The RWSS is grateful for all help it received and continues to receive in this period. The RWSS Management once again demonstrated its crisis management skills and successfully responded to any given situation. One of these reactions is the “Opinion of the Director of the Regional Water Supply System Goran Jevrić” which was presented to the wider public and which we are publishing integrally as well. We hope that our selection of topics and texts has shed some light on the analysed problems and that the information which we presented will be significant for the overall trends both in Montenegro and in the region, and beyond. Esteemed colleagues, dear readers, thank you for the time that you will devote to reading this issue of the magazine. We invite you to send us, as always, your proposals, remarks, suggestions and texts, to our mutual satisfaction, so you can continue to be the creators of the publication and its contents.