A river in Eastern Europe famed for its natural beauty has become clogged by a huge island of floating waste due to mismanagement.
Some 10,000 cubic metres of densely packed plastic containers, empty barrels, used tires and other debris now cover almost the entire width of a stretch of the Drina river in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The rubbish has piled up against a barrier which was built to protect a dam used by a hydroelectric plant downstream.
Much of it is believed to have come from poorly regulated landfill sites along its shores which stretch into Serbia and Montenegro and have been flooded following heavy rain over the past week.
But environmental groups say large amounts have also dumped directly into the water by suspected flytippers and illegal landfill sites.
Dejan Furtula of Eco Centre Visegrad said: ‘We had a lot of rainfall and torrential floods in recent days and a huge inflow of water from (the Drina’s tributaries in) Montenegro which is now, fortunately, subsiding.
‘Unfortunately, the huge inflow of garbage has not ceased.’
The barrier collects an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 cubic metres of waste every year, according to workers at the hydroelectric dam who maintain it, meaning rubbish islands of this kind are a regular sight on the Drina.
The operation to clear them takes an average of six months at a cost of up to €100,000 (£88,000).
The waste ends up at a landfill in the nearby city of Visegrad which is so overfilled that it is forced to burn large amounts.
Mr Furtula added: ‘The fires on the landfill site are always burning. It is not just a huge environmental and health hazard, but also a big embarrassment for all of us.’
Bosnia has signed up to EU directives on waste management as part of efforts to join the bloc, but most of its landfill operations have repeatedly been found to fall short of European standards.
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