The people of Zrenjanin have united, activist group Zrenjaninska akcija said. It has been organizing protest drives every Saturday with a demand to the authorities to publish a plan on securing drinking water from the waterworks for the city’s entire area. The activists said the city government has been ignoring them and that they are ready to radicalize the struggle. The water from Zrenjanin’s waterworks was last officially safe for drinking in 2004.
People from Zrenjanin and the Banat region in Serbia’s northeast and those who want to support them can make a video of up to three seconds where they or someone else say “Zrenjanin je žedan” (Zrenjanin is thirsty). The clip should be sent to Viber group #zrenjaninjezedan, Zrenjaninska akcija – ZRAK said. The activist group has organized protest drives for three Saturdays in a row with the argument that the city’s inhabitants lost their patience as water from the waterworks hasn’t been safe for drinking for 17 years now.
In addition to the regular protest drive, there is a social media campaign “Zrenjanin is thirsty”
“The city management is unconcerned about this and it is not considering the most basic human right, access to drinking water. The authorities are presenting Zrenjanin as an investment paradise, but people are moving away and the population shrinks by one thousand people every year. More and more people who live in Zrenjanin come out to the streets on Saturdays, and everyone passing by greets them,” Mišo Živanović from ZRAK told Balkan Green Energy News.
He announced protests would radicalized if there is still no reaction from above and that lawsuits may be filed for damages.
Protests were mostly sporadic or short lived so far. Census data show more than 120,000 people lived in the city’s territory in 2011, of which 77,000 in the urban area.
Demanding two liters for free per inhabitant every day
In his words, 600,000 people in Banat doesn’t have access to quality water, and EUR 30,000 is spent every day on bottled water in Zrenjanin alone. The organization is urging the authorities to immediately publish deadlines for everyone to get drinking water from the waterworks and to bring those responsible to account.
Whole generations are growing up without drinking water, which is elsewhere taken for granted
“We want to keep good spirits among the people. We want them to know they have hope and a voice to express their problems,” he said.
Zrenjaninska akcija is also demanding from the city government to secure two liters of free drinking water per person per day right away. Even though it would still be paid with taxpayer money, it is a way to be sure that some of the most vulnerable people stop drinking water that has irregular quantities of arsenic and phenols in it.
Water from the waterworks was declared unsafe on January 20, 2004, though the quality was already weak for decades and quantities were insufficient. It means many generations were growing up without something that is elsewhere taken for granted. The city signed and canceled several deals with foreign investors. A water treatment plant was finally built in 2019, but the quality was far from sufficient and the unit is mostly offline.
Test production of new water treatment plant was unsuccessful several times
The plant starts delivering water in trial runs from time to time, but then pipes in the obsolete network tend to burst, so the city was without any water for several days at the time. Živanov notes that on some occasions the city failed to send potable water trucks to the streets and that Zrenjaninska akcija has photos to prove the vehicles were directed to the construction site of the controversial Linglong tire factory.
“The industrial complex will be connected to the city’s water network in a situation where pressure often drops and there is no water in buildings above the third floor. They are redirecting our money into infrastructure for private investors without asking us. At the same time, we are paying for service water at the price of potable water,” he said.