Metro works starts amid uproar, warnings of pollution; Vucic: Opponents leisured

Tanjug / Miloš Milivojević

The Belgrade city authorities launched the construction of the city metro on Monday at a wetlands site which environmental organizations and experts say would endanger the Serbian capital’s water supply.

Environmental organizations said in social media posts over the weekend that all institutional avenues have been exhausted in their efforts to prevent the destruction of the wetland area at Makis just outside Belgrade and called for a protest and blockade of the construction site. The city authorities also met with fierce criticism of the plan from the Belgrade Univerity School of Civil Engineering.

Environmental activists, opposition party members and private individuals blocked the approach road to the construction site as part of the protest. An N1 reporter said that the crowd blocked a truck belongong to the Millenium Team company which has close ties to the authorities, adding that there was no traffic on the main road.

The Ecology Uprising (Ekoloski Ustanak) movement scheduled a protest gathering at noon, calling all opposition parties and civil soviety organizations to defend the public interest. “All institutional mechanisms to defend Makis have been exhausted. The authorities are determined to start building a million square meters (of housing and commercial properties) at Makis causing the complete destruction of Belgrade’s water source,” the organization said, adding that the sewage from the complex for 30,000 people will be poured into the water source.

Commenting the begining of construction, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic said those who criticised the works „do not have any policy and that they are „lost (people) who do not know what to do with themselves at 10 or 11 am.“

Hydro-geology expert Branislav Bozovic told the Beta news agency that every Belgrade resident has a duty to prevent the construction of the metro depot and a housing and business complex at the Makisko Polje site. Bozovic served as city environment secretary for years. He said that the Makisko Polje wetlands is the only source of healthy drinking water for the Serbian capital, adding that it has been in use for 130 years. He warned that any construction at the wetland site could leave the city without water.

Bozovic also warned about the polluting of Makisko polje. According to him, prolonged use of polluted water causes death and the plans to build at Makisko Polje will pose a health hazard for every city resident. He said that there have been plans to build a metro for decades but none of them included the construction of a depot at Makisko Polje.

“The citizens of Belgrade have to defend and save Makis. This is a question of life or death for Belgrade,” he said.