The beginning of the week will obviously be reserved for rants on this blog. While Belgrade does have a rich culture, amazing history and vibrant modern life, the city does have its innumerable flaws and I intend to at least mention every one. What one cannot help but notice in Belgrade is the trash. It’s painfully evident on every street and corner, it’s insulting to locals like myself and despicable to visitors. In today’s day in age, it is nothing less than ridiculous.
Yesterday, I was walking around what happens to be one of the nicest family oriented, typical parts of Belgrade, Šumice and Denkova Bašta (“Little Woods” and “Denko’s Garden” just for the irony of it), with a visitor from Zagreb. As I was telling her a little about the two neighborhoods, I found I had to watch my step. As usual, there was trash everywhere, from empty PET and foil packages to bags of trash left blatantly on the corner. I pointed it out and emphasized what a problem this has been for decades in Belgrade. She then told be about the several ways this was being handled in Zagreb and of their, she claims, very efficient and now active recycling habits. So there’s proof that an ex YU country with a similar economy to ours, albeit smaller, can handle the issues we can’t even seem to grasp. To make things worse, I came home after our walk and decided to search the news online for any developments in the city’s plans for this particular issue. Guess what. I found several articles, the last one from just two days ago, on the great success of the city’s “Clean Up Belgrade” project.
To quote the article on BalkanInsight.com, bearing yesterday’s date: “Serbian Environment and Spatial Planning Minister Oliver Dulić says that 20-30 per cent of illegal dumps were removed in the Let’s Clean Up Serbia campaign, Tanjug news agency reported Sunday.”
Did Tanjug just forget to mention that the contents of these illegal dumps can now be found scattered throughout Belgrade for our viewing pleasure? Every other article I found tells us of the several solutions the city has planned for this huge and ongoing problem. Some of these articles and plans date from 2007. We are well into the 3rd quarter of 2009 and, I’m sorry to say, the results aren’t there.
What I find particularly fascinating is that the recycling industry is actually quite a profitable one and this country is relatively equipped for it. Hello??? Hm… let’s see: hard times globally, jobs needed locally for both qualified and unqualified workforce, trash everywhere and an existing, very inactive, very viable industry just waiting to go. I don’t get it. What’s the city waiting for. I’m stupid. Explain it to me. In an article from 2007, B92 claims that the recycling industry in developed countries sees $160M a year and employs over 1.5M workers. I am well aware that governments deal in much bigger numbers than that, but are several million dollars of profit and hundreds of jobs chump change? Not worth the time and trouble of cleaning up the city while they’re at it? Granted the root of Belgrade’s battle with trash lies in the ill mannered ways of its citizens whose mothers obviously didn’t teach them not to litter and have respect for others who share their space. How about generating some more cash flow by passing a couple of half-ass laws and fining people for littering? There’s a novel idea!
In 2000, during their now historical battle vs Milošević for democracy, the political parties that made up “DOS” made several promises. Let’s ignore the rest of the lagging developments for a moment and concentrate on the promises made by DOS’s candidate for Mayor of Belgrade, Milan St. Protić, in an interview and on their behalf: “We can’t make any promises of large projects, although we would like that, and therefore we will concentrate on things that can be done quickly and be most useful to city’s inhabitants. Among those things is getting city transit (buses, etc.) in order, as well as parking and the rest of the city transport system, the cleanup so we don’t need do dig our way out of garbage an containers, and after that we will go step by step.” Sounds realistic enough. So why is the transportation system only barely improved and the trash still in place a full 9 years later?
My son was a nine-month-old baby when the Serbian Democrats came into power in Belgrade. My son will be 10 this December and, if nothing else, I have taught him not to throw trash anywhere other than in a designated container. I have also managed to teach him a thing or two about caring for the environment and we recycle as much as is humanly possible in this country. My son keeps asking me why there is only one container fro the collection of PET packages at his school, and why don’t we (our city) recycle paper more, and why does he always have to walk so much to the nearest trash can, and how come everyone just throws things on the floor and no one says anything, and why don’t they get someone to clean up the park in Šumice where he plays…? The questions are with much reason and they deserve an answer. Gentlemen of the government of the City of Belgrade, this is your future voter asking. Do you have any plausible answers at all for him?