Banja Luka, 09 September 2016 – This year’s activities ended with the rafting regatta from Bijeli Potok to Karanovac and the presentation of the Clean Vrbas Initiative, and plans for the following period were announced. The second half of August was marked by activities realised by the teams working on the Initiative. An eco-regatta took place upstream from Donji Vakuf-Kopčić to Torlakovac, a tour of Šipovo was organised, and a section of the Pliva River basin, from Šipovo to Jezero, was cleaned.

“The purpose of the cleaning action conducted in August was to locate and identify polluters, present an environmental management modality and show the importance of managing natural resources – our rivers – to the citizens. It is necessary to emphasise that we are not a public utility, and that the cleaning and maintenance of river beds and banks should be their responsibility. The Clean Vrbas Initiative was developed in answer to the need to help and encourage the local community and local population to take a more serious approach to river basins in urban areas and city centres”, Aleksandar Pastir said.

Officials of the Government of the Republic of Srpska, city and municipality mayors in the Vrbas basin, and the UNDP and Coca‑Cola HBC B-H Sarajevo representatives attended the regatta and the conference organised by the RC “Kanjon”. They pledged their commitment to use all means available, and actively and continuously promote environmental protection, pollution reduction and water quality improvement in the Vrbas basin.

‘It is my pleasure to see that the Clean Vrbas Initiative has come to life and is developing. Together with the activities of our partners, all of the cleaning and promotional activities contribute to the long-term protection of the Vrbas River and improve the lives of the residents in the area. I would therefore like to express my heartfelt appreciation for all of the organisations and individuals who have contributed to the ecological preservation of the Vrbas River’, Spatial Planning, Civil Engineering and Ecology Minister in the Government of the RS said.

‘Vrbas is the economic and energy potential for Banja Luka and the main source of drinking water supply. We tried to implement what we agreed on in 2013 but I don’t think we did everything we could. We invested BAM 15 million in 23 km of sewage infrastructure from Karanovac to Rebrovac Bridge and provided both banks with a sewage system as the first steps toward protecting the banks of the Vrbas River’, Slobodan Gavranović, the Mayor of Banja Luka noted.

“The UNDP takes great pleasure in the fact that all of the initiatives we have started are still being kept alive even after the projects official ended, as is the case with the Eco-Regatta and the Clean Vrbas Initiative, and that has been possible primarily as a result of the active engagement and enthusiasm of our partners, RC Kanjon, the private sector and socially responsible companies such as Coca‑Cola, as well as traditionally good cooperation with the competent authorities – ministries”, Raduška Cupać, a UNDP project manager in the energy and environmental protection sector at the regional UNDP office in Banja Luka, said.

Protection of the Vrbas River and planned use of its tourism and economic potentials were the main goals of the program preceding the Clean Vrbas Imitative, whose main partner this year is Coca‑Cola HBC B-H d.o.o. Sarajevo.

“We are glad to have the opportunity to work with the UN Development Program in BiH, the institutions, municipalities, civil society organisations and local communities on the Clean Vrbas Initiative. Clean Vrbas is one of the more important projects for Coca‑Cola in Bosnia and Herzegovina because water stewardship is one of our priorities both on a regional and global level. We believe that the successful implementation of the Initiative will set a good example of public-private partnership in the realisation of significant socially responsible projects and serve as a model for preserving and strengthening the economic potential of other basins in the country and the region. We would like to include as many partners as possible in the Clean Vrbas Initiative, expand the scope of activities and set an example for sustainable water resource management”, Saša Kukolj, Coca‑Cola HBC B-H Regional Sales Manager Banja Luka region, said.

The Clean Vrbas Charter was signed by the mayors of Banja Luka, Laktaši, Srbac, Kneževo, Kotor-Varoš, Mrkonjić Grad, Šipovo Jezero, Donji Vakuf, Gornji Vakuf – Uskoplje, Bugojno and Jajce, and the representatives of the relevant ministries from both entities, as well as the Environmental Protection Fund FBiH, the Environmental Protection and Energy Efficiency Fund of the RS and project partners: the Coca‑Cola HBC B-H d.o.o. Sarajevo, the United Nations Development Program in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNDP) and the Government of Japan.