Despite the abundant water resources in Bosnia and Herzegovina, access to safe drinking water is well below EU standards: currently, around 65% of the population is connected to public/municipal water utilities (compared to the EU average of 90%). Drinking water supply in terms of quantity and quality is only satisfactory in large urban areas. In rural areas, where most of the poor and vulnerable people live, the situation is much harder.
Such was the case with Ilija Brdar, a 65-year-old returnee to Lohovo, a village of about 25 returnee households in the Municipality of Bihać in western Bosnia. He returned with his family of five in 2001 to his home that had been destroyed in 1992-1995 war. He reconstructed the house using a donation, but with no source of income life remained extremely hard. He could not engage in serious farming, since he had no access to a water supply. ”The nearest source of water was a natural water well, 500 metres away. We were carrying water manually, which was barely enough for us, let alone our few animals and garden. Especially in summer, because the supply was always drying up,“ remembers Ilija. He had no choice except to hope that someday, somehow, water would find its way to them, as it always does in nature.
He was right – water did find a way. As part of one of 18 infrastructure projects implemented in the framework of the “Securing Access to Water through Institutional Development and Infrastructure in Bosnia and Herzegovina” programme, water supply pipes were brought to Lohovo, and to Ilija’s house in 2011. As the workers were laying down the pipes through their yard, family members could hardly contain their happiness. “I still cannot believe it’s for real. I am afraid to celebrate until I see the water running from the pipe,” Ilija said.
Bringing water supply pipes to the homes of those most in need was the most visible result of the programme, but by no means the only one. A number of other, maybe equally important goals were also achieved.
Ilija was identified by his fellow citizens as someone needing help. His household was connected to the water supply system, completely changing his life after ten years of hardship. Apart from addressing his family’s domestic needs, Ilija was able to start farming allowing him to earn an income and support his family. “I can finally water my crops and afford to keep more animals. I had to build a barn, which I did not need before because I only had few pigs and cows. Now my barn is full and my crop yields are like never before,” says Ilija.
Ilija Brdar is one of about 55,000 people (from 13,083 households) whose water supply problem was solved through this programme. Most beneficiaries belong to the most vulnerable groups of society. Thanks to this programme, the number of people with access to safe water has risen by 2% at the country level. The list of benefits is much longer. The quality and quantity of the water supply has been significantly raised and the risk of infectious disease has been lowered. Water loss has decreased (previously amounting to 80%), and savings in terms of electricity and maintenance costs has increased (total savings of BAM 910,000 per year).
13,083 households (55,000 citizens) have improved water supply services, including better water quality and quantity, 200 returnee families have access to safe water and water loss has decreased in the networks by 30-50% in partner municipalities.