Activists and residents of the densely populated New Belgrade neighbourhood “Blok 70” are preventing a public utility company from drilling and digging through the Sava River embankment, which protects the Serbian capital from potential flooding from the country’s second largest river.
The utility company wants to drill through the embankment to connect some thirty floating houses of dubious legal status to public services such as water supply, with the permission of the local authorities.
Local residents, worried about the dire consequences of damaged flood defences, point to the Water Act, which prohibits all potentially harmful activities on embankments, and quote experts who point out that the materials and construction of the Sava embankment make it highly susceptible to drilling and difficult to repair.
“The embankment is just as important as strategic and military objects,” emphasises local resident Branislav Tomić.
“This is such an offence that there is no excuse. Srbijavode [Serbiawaters], the public company in charge of managing water facilities, issued a statement saying that it ensures that all work is carried out according to professional standards. But the law does not say that digging on embankments is allowed ‘if it is done according to professional standards’. Why not? Because this is a sensitive facility built with special technology”.
At the beginning of March, the public utility company began drilling holes in the embankment. Residents were quick to organise themselves and, for the time being, are preventing the work, which they and experts say will damage the flood defences, from continuing.
The mayor of Belgrade, Aleksandar Šapić, said that he would sue anyone who claimed that the authorities were carrying out works “that will sink New Belgrade” for causing panic. Residents of the “Blok 70” neighbourhood near the Sava River embankment respond that they are indeed in panic “when we see what the government is doing” and declare that they will continue to monitor and defend the flood protection.