If You Can’t Stop Something, Try Putting Yourself on the Front Line of It

The city administration of Zrenjanin has decided to terminate the contract with the “investor” who built the “water treatment plant.” The whole project, which started in 2015, was illegal, and from the technological point of view, it was performed in amateur way.

The only culprit for everything that happened in connection with the construction of the water treatment plant is the SNS, but the citizens voted repeatedly for such government. Now they bear the consequences.

A “protest ride” was held in Zrenajnin on Saturday evening, July 31, due to problems with drinking water. The organizers are asking the authorities for two litres of water a day for each resident, until the problem with the water supply is solved. They are not seeking responsibility due to numerous scandals surrounding the construction of the so-called “water factory”. According to the “Danas” portal, Bekim Rukeci, an activist of the non-governmental organization “Zrak”, who called for a protest, stated that the gathered citizens are not interested to call out the authorities and the owners of the plant: “We are not entering that political mud.”

If the city government in Zrenjanin accepts such requests, it is likely that a company close to the SNS will make the procurement, and the activists of this party will distribute water to households.

The modest demands from last night’s protest raise doubts about the motives of the organizers. Is the real intention to prevent more radical protests? There is a principle in politics: if you can’t prevent something, try to put yourself in front line of it. Also, access to proper drinking water is a first-class political issue. In Zrenjanin, this problem can be solved only if self-organized citizens put strong pressure on the government. So far, they have been passive.

More than seven hundred thousand inhabitants of Vojvodina are supplied with water in which the concentration of arsenic is significantly higher than allowed. That would have to be a state problem and solved by the Government.

At the session held on May 10th, the Assembly of the City of Zrenjanin allocated 448.2 million dinars to JKP “Vodovod i kanalizacija” for “construction of water supply and sewerage infrastructure in the industrial zone Southeast”. A giant car tire factory, Chinese company “Linglong”, is being built in that zone. The organizers of last night’s protest did not ask why the city government finances construction of water and sewage infrastructure to a foreign private company from the budget, while neglecting the needs of its citizens. The answer is clear, for the SNS, the profit of foreign companies is more important than the health of people.

In recent months, the environmental movement has begun to strengthen in Serbia. The reason is that Vučić’s regime enables foreign corporations to implement environmentally high-risk projects in Serbia. To prevent and compromise the protests, the progressive government has previously organized false, quasi-non-governmental organizations whose task is to spread growing dissatisfaction so as not to violate the interests of foreign capital and their political representative in Serbia, the SNS.

Dissatisfaction is growing in Zrenjanin due to the lack of drinking water. The government, of course, will not sit idly by and will take all possible measures to prevent dissatisfaction from escalating. In addition, there is an interest of the local business circles to take over the business of supplying the city with drinking water. The Law on Communal Activities was amended in 2018, so that today, unlike before 2015, private companies can perform certain tasks in the field of water supply.

All in all, citizens need to be careful. It is possible that a new fraud related to water supplies is being prepared in Zrenjanin.

Miroslav Samardzic, political scientist