MDG 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

  A fisherman in the Neretva Canyon collects his trout.

Over the last decade BiH has increased its efforts to address environmental challenges and has harmonised the legal aspects of environmental protection in each of the entities through a set of environmental laws prepared in accordance with European Union directives. The laws on environmental protection of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), the Republika Srpska (RS) and the Brčko District (BD) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the Laws on Waters are the founding legal acts that govern the sector.

BiH has signed numerous multilateral agreements within the field of environmental protection: the Convention on Biological Diversity (2002), the Framework Convention on Climate Change (2000), the Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/ or Desertification (2002), the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal (2001), the Danube Convention (2006), the Aarhus Convention (2008), the Bern Convention (2008), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (2008), the Cartagena (2008), the Kyoto Protocol (2009), the ESPO Convention (2009), the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (2010) and the Beijing Amendment to the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer (2011).

A considerable number of strategic documents were drafted during the period 2000-2012 and these represent the basis for continuous efforts in BiH to implement reforms within the environment sector. A National Capacity Self-Assessment was conducted in order to identify country level priorities and needs for capacity building targeted at addressing global environmental issues and, in particular, to enhance the capacity of Bosnia and Herzegovina to meet its existing commitments under the four top priority UN conventions. The National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) 2008-2015 has been adopted and is now being revised to meet the requirements of the CBD Biodiversity Strategic Plan 2011-2020 and the Aichi Targets. 

BiH produced, through the support of the UN, under the leadership of UNEP, and cooperation with key national stakeholders, the first State of Environment Report for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SOER 2012). Apart from the overview of environmental performance and assessment of the efficiency of the implemented protection measures, the report identifies key questions related to the protection and improvement of the present status of the environment. The work on SOER also indicated the insufficient human and technical capacities for the fulfilment of the international environmental obligations of BiH.

Forest Coverage, Biodiversity and Climate Change Threats

 Biodiversity protection in Livanjsko polje

Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country rich in biodiversity. The country is considered to be among the top five countries in Europe in terms of biodiversity  with a high number of endemic and relict species. More than 5,000 species and sub-species of vascular plants, more than 100 species of fish, over 320 species of birds and other components of biological diversity have been identified in BiH. Forests represent a very significant natural resource in BiH. The forest cover extends to 50% of the total territory of BiH and is distributed equally between the two entities. Most forest areas are classified as high forests.

However, data on biodiversity in BiH is scarce and BiH has still not established a central or coordination body for monitoring the status of biodiversity. The amount of territories designated as protected areas in BiH are relatively small and extremely low in terms of the percentage of protected territory compared to the total territory of BiH, far below the European standard. The management of existing protected areas is also a matter of considerable concern. 

BiH is considered highly sensitive to climate change threats due to its ‘climate-sensitive’ and economic sectors, such as agriculture, forestry and the hydropower/energy sector. The First National Communication of BiH under the UNFCCC (Framework Convention on Climate Change) compiled the 1990 base year inventory of greenhouse gases. This assessment of vulnerability in adaptation to climate change shows that BiH has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions.

Potential of Renewable Energy and Biomass

     Biomass as an Efficient Source of Energy

BiH possesses significant resources for generating energy. The theoretical hydro potential in BiH amounts to approximatelyy 99,256 GWh/yryr., while the technical to approximately 23,395 GWh/yr. The energy potential of a small-scale hydro power plant in BiH amounts to 3,520 GWh annually. BiH has significant solar radiation ranging from 1,240 kWh/m2 in the north to 1,600 kWh/m2 in the south, while average annual sunny hours amounts to 1,840.9. The theoretical potential for solar energy in BiH amounts to 67.2 pWh, which exceeds the total consumption of energy in the country. Currently there are no wind power plants that are connected to the high voltage network. However, between 1999 and 2012 potential locations were identified for building wind power plants in BiH.

It is imperative for BiH to start introducing clean energy sources like biomass. So far biomass has mainly been exported, while poor quality coal and fuel oil were used for heating BiH households. Biomass originating from forestry (firewood, forestry waste and wood waste from the timber industry) and agriculture has the largest economic potential and offers the best opportunity for employment and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. The total technical potential of biomass energy in BiH amounts to approximately 33.518 PJ.

Sustainable Access to Drinking Water and Sanitation

While BiH is rich in water resources access to drinking water, measured against the proportion of the population with continuous access to an adequate supply of safe drinking water (piped water) at home, is not yet fully ensured for the entire population. However, access to water has increased from the baseline of 53% in 2000/2001 to 61.7% in 2011; therefore, the 2015 target of 67% population coverage could potentially be achieved. Access to a public (centralised) sewage system has also increased from the baseline of 33% to 36% in 2008 and so the 2015 target of 40% coverage is likely to be achieved.

The total annual abstraction of water for public water supply amounts to around 1% of annual renewable water. Groundwater and springs are of special significance as they are mainly used for water supply (89%), while 10.2% comes from rivers and 0.8% from natural lakes and artificial reservoirs. Yet the current infrastructural capacity of the water supply system is a matter of serious concern. Due to damage and a lack of maintenance during the war (1992-1995) most of the water and wastewater systems, which date back more than 25 years, suffer from a high level of network leakage. The sewage system in BiH is inadequate both in terms of the capacity and technology used. Sewage systems only exist in the central parts of cities, while the urban fringes and rural areas are served largely by inadequate and inappropriate septic pits. The latter seriously endanger the quality of surface and groundwater which are important sources of drinking water.


 A Deminer working to clear the minefield in the Sarajevo area of Betanija.

Seventeen years after the end of the conflict BiH still faces the problem of a high level of landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) contamination. BiH is the most landmine contaminated country in Europe and certainly one of the most contaminated in the world. Despite the efforts made and significant improvements in mine action management landmines and UXO still represent one of the main threats to the safety of citizens and economic and social development in BiH. Although a great deal of work has been invested in the process of the identification and clearance of landmine contaminated areas they can still be found almost all over the country. To date, in the post-war period 1,689 people have been affected by landmines including 593 fatalities.

In 2008 a new demining strategy was adopted in BiH. The objective of the 2009-2019 Mine Action Strategy is to completely eliminate suspect area of the first and second category of priority by the end of 2018, reducing it through general and technical survey and mine clearance and to completely eliminate third category priority suspect areas using prohibitive measures and survey activities. However, experience to date indicates a major discrepancy between the realistic need for mine action in BiH and the possibilities of the country and its supporters. Given the current level of progress in terms of demining and land clearance it seems unlikely that the objectives of the strategy will be met by 2019; this is mainly due to the lack of sufficient funds: the existing strategy cites the annual financial requirement for demining at approximately 80 million BAM (40 Mil EUR).