Example of result

They prevent damages by increasing knowledge about natural distasters

Updated: 22 March 2016

In May 2014, Serbia was hit by the worst torrential rain in hundreds of years, and in the capital of Belgrade, two months of rain fell in the space of 40 hours. The consequence was floods which killed 65 people, forced thousands of people to flee and washed away roads, bridges and houses. The European Central Bank estimated that the country lost around 10 % of its GDP.

Serbia has long had a neglected infrastructure and the country's economy is still suffering from the after-effects of the Balkan Wars. The country has applied for membership in the EU, but major improvements in areas such as the environment are necessary if this is to become a reality. 

The level of preparation to withstand major climate catastrophes such as this is low. In Mali Zvonik, a beautiful municipality situated between two mountains on the border between Bosnia and Serbia, few knew how they would manage the severe rain. Their houses were built on the mountainside, meaning they were extremely vulnerable to landslides. In the village of Velika Reka lives Milenko Smiljanic, who shows us how large debris came crashing down and caused major damage.

Milenko Smiljanic
Photo: Erik Nahlén/Sida

- All of the windows and doors were shaking. Then the mountain crumbled, burying all of the houses.

Ljiljana Ristanovic works for the project “Dialogue for the prevention of natural hazards”. She explains that this is an identified high-risk zone for flooding and that the entire region has been severely affected by over 200 landslides.

Her task is now to increase local inhabitants' knowledge of how to prevent further catastrophes and be better prepared so as to mitigate the damage. With this goal in mind, local decision-makers and various Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are called to meetings.

Ljiljana Ristanovic
Photo: Erik Nahlén/Sida

- Civil society and the municipality have worked together to form networks of knowledge in various municipalities. The main result is a joint concrete plan for preventing natural disasters in the area.

One example of the dissemination of information is interactive maps which allow the user to check whether they live in an area which is at risk of high waters and landslides. Another is that the children are invited to participate in workshops from an early age and are provided with school books which deal with the issue of climate change.

- We have contributed to providing the population with knowledge which will help them to reduce future risks. This is the most important thing for local residents, Ljiljana emphasises. Knowledge goes a long way.


The project is financed by the Sida-funded environmental organisation Regional Environmental Center (REC) in Belgrade, and is intended to promote an effective dialogue between state and civil society in order to increase opportunities in civil society to follow, evaluate and implement policies, strategies and laws as the country approaches EU membership. The funding from Sida amounted to SEK 500,000 over a three-year period.

Examples of results achieved:

  • Increased knowledge at the municipal level regarding their role in the work on environmental issues and how they can reduce the risks of landslides and flooding.
  • Workshops with CSOs and municipal employees to increase knowledge and lead to active participation in risk management for accidents, with a focus on equality and increasing the percentage of female participation.
  • Establishment of a knowledge network for around 20 CSOs in the Podrinje region.
  • Homepage which enables CSOs to receive the latest news on what is happening within the project.

Page owner: Department for Europe and Latin America

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