The people in the city of Zrenjanin in Serbia have been waiting for more than seventeen years to achieve their constitutionally guaranteed right to clean drinking water. There were no buyers on December 2 at the first tender for the sale of Fabrika vode, the company that operates the dysfunctional water factory there.
According to the estimates of the executor in charge, the movable and immovable property of the water factory has a value of EUR 7.1 million. In the first public tender, held electronically, it was offered for a minimum of 70% of the appraised value. But no one was interested.
A new tender has been announced for December 24, and the starting price will be reduced by 50 %. It is also the legal minimum because the offered price must not be below half of the estimated value.
Erste Bank initiated the sale as the main creditor of the water factory, to settle its receivables. Previously, the bankruptcy proceedings over unpaid debts before the Zrenjanin Commercial Court were suspended at the request of the bank. It claimed the decision was in the interest of all citizens of Zrenjanin and that it hopes a buyer would appear, start operating the factory and enable the delivery of chemically and bacteriologically safe water.
Water belongs to the citizens
Angry citizens and their organizations are monitoring in detail the scandals and complications in parallel to the failure to provide clean and drinking water for 120,000 citizens for almost two decades. The Zrenjanin Action – ZRAK asserted that about 600,000 inhabitants of the Banat region in northeastern Serbia do not have access to water of satisfactory quality and that the inhabitants of Zrenjanin spend about EUR 30,000 a day on bottled water. It is certainly questionable whether all the inhabitants can afford it every day.
Activists from the ZRAK association also pointed out that public-private partnerships for utilities are unacceptable, especially in the field of water supply. They insist the city should buy the water factory and that the state must invest in the replacement of water pipes.
While the City of Zrenjanin is still looking for and expecting a new private partner and investor to buy the water factory after so much time, the citizens deserve clear answers and a plan.