Montenegro Town’s Dream: From Toxic Dump to Eco-tourism Hub

19 January 2011

Assistant Editor's Note: The following summary and excerpts are based on an article written by Olivera Nikolic, originally published on Yahoo! News. The Montenegro Tourism Board is an Adventure Travel Trade Association Member.

The Serbian town of Mojkovac has historically been the most polluted area in Montenegro due to the presence of a make-shift dump from a now-defunct zinc mine, where approximately 2.5 tons of garbage and toxic materials still emit a dust which gives visitors headaches and watery eyes, and has been suspected to cause health problems among locals. The town interrupts the region's otherwise unadulterated natural landscape, which boasts mountain ranges, two national parks and one of Europe's cleanest rivers - an area which is a natural hot spot for adventure travelers.

The Tara cuts through a gorge that forms one of the continent's longest canyons, parts of which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in the 1980s. Its "wild beauty" -- vaunted by the national tourism board -- draws cyclists, rafters and hikers from home and abroad, some as far as Finland, Spain and the United States, to a region that remains poorer and less-developed than the rest of the country.

Yet few of these visitors venture into Mojkovac -- a situation local officials want to change.

The local government, together with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched a clean up of the area in 2007, solidifying run-off from the former dump to keep the chemicals from reaching the river. A 1.5 million euro initiative began in October 2010 to seal off the remaining toxic dirt and future plans include the construction of an eight million dollar sports center over the sanitized area.
The goal is to transform this former industrial zone into a trendy recreational center for adventure and eco-tourists, including an eco-village and small hotels...

"As much as this waste dump has given us problems, worries, illnesses and deaths, we now expect it to repay its debt to us and become a valuable tourist and sports potential," Bogavac said.

The project is part of a UNDP-backed Western Balkans Regional Environmental Hot Spots Programme, a three-year initiative funded by the Netherlands to assist areas in the region blighted by industrial pollution...

In 1991, Montenegro was the first country in the world to proclaim itself an "ecological state," a move to make ecology and sustainability operative choices in state policy. In 2010, the government earmarked 22 million euros (30.4 million dollars) for the environmental ministry alone to help meet "green" goals.

Read the entire article on Yahoo! News.