Todays Date
January 27, 2022

Macedonia with a thin barrier against large flood

For the next few years rainy weather is expected that can cause flooding. Experts accuse the country of doing nothing for the implementation of EU floods directives and if we have more rainfall, floods are inevitable. Officials say that they clean the channels

Prevent now, not to pay the price later, only 100 times more. This is an experience which these days our neighbors from Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia have had.

Macedonia as a neighboring country helped by sending humanitarian aid, but we hope it will learn what not to do so that cataclysm does not happen. Is Macedonia prepared to deal with large-scale flooding?

From the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management they say that they are working on flood protection and for the past six years about 2 million Euros have been allocated just to clean the drains. But also last year we saw that two dams within the competence of the Ministry of Agriculture collapsed, dams Pishica near Probishtip and the dam Slatina near Ohrid.

Obviously this is not enough money to maintain the whole flood protection infrastructure and not enough has been prevented on time. The State Secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning Sonja Lipitkova confirms that preventing flooding is very significant.

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Floods in Skopje in 1962

“If prevented on time and funds allocated for rehabilitation, damages arising from the floods would be reduced 100 times. The best example of this is the dam Slatino in Ohrid, if the dam had been prevented on time, there would not have been such big damages. Prevention may have cost 10 million denars (about 160,000 Euros), while the renovation of the dam will now cost 1.5 million Euros”, says Lipitkova.

She adds that in 2015 the budget will provide money for repairing the dam Pisica near Probishtip, too.

EU floods directives only on paper

According to Cvetanka Popovska, professor at the Department of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Water Flows Regulation at the Faculty of Civil Engineering in Skopje, the country does little to prevent flooding.

“Generally Macedonia is not prepared to deal with major flooding. We do not take flooding seriously until it happens”, said Popovska. She stressed that no EU floods directive has been implemented here.

The directives cover a set of measures that should be adopted and implemented, as marking critical points, mapping, calculation of risk, inventory, real-time monitoring.

Lipitkova disagrees with Popovska’s opinion.

“42 critical points in the rivers in the country that could lead to flooding are located in the Ministry of Environment. This year we have cleaned a good portion of these critical points and therefore we have had no problems with flooding for the past two months, when there was heavy rainfall”, said the State Secretary at this Ministry.

Popovska has a different view.

“Almost every year in May or autumn Upper Vardar is flooded, the area Studence, Kopance, Raotince etc. For two years in a row flooding has affected Stip, this year Otinje has flooded, last year Otinje and Bregalnica also flooded Stip, Strumica, Kocani and Pelagonija”, said Popovska adding that we are lucky that here rains did not last long.

Macedonia with identical conditions for the Serbian scenario

Floods in Tetovo in 1979

Floods in Tetovo in 1979

Experts comment that Macedonia has the same conditions and the same land configuration as in Bosnia where there were floods. Dr. Blagoja Markoski, professor at the Geography Department at the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics announces the risk of flooding in Macedonia.

“Here in cycles of 20 years there is a year when we increase rainfall compared to average. There were several large wet waves. There was a flood in 1962 and after 17 years in 1979, then I think 2002 was a wet year, 23 years after the last flood. So, by 2025 we can expect another wet year”, says professor Markoski.

He added that in order to prevent, science coordinates and adopts a set of measures. Buildings are constructed on certain standards that will accept floodwaters. Every day the population must obey these standards to avoid such consequences.

 

Major flooding in Skopje
1778
1858
1876
1895
1903
1935
1937
1962
1979

 

For Professor Popovska, conditions in which floods in Bosnia and Serbia occurred are with the same configuration of land as in our country.

“Floods in Serbia occurred not because of water outside, but because of rising water courses, as Serbia, like Macedonia, is a mountainous country. Our territory is 79% mountainous territory. Only 19% are plain areas”, said Popovska.

She says that Vardar, which is a major river in Macedonia, is of overflowing nature, which implies large fluctuations in water flow. In summer it has flow under all biological minimum reaching 5 cubic meters per second, while in spring or autumn it can fill up to 300-400 cubic meters per second. Such oscillations require free riverbed of Vardar to transport this water.

For Lipitkova there is little danger Vardar to flood Skopje of such a large scale as in Serbia.

“It is prevented on time with the construction of the dam Kozjak for example, which will cover higher amounts of water in the river Treska. Apart from the dam, a minor and major bed are built in Skopje after the whole flow of the river in the capital city”, adds Lipitkova.

Money spent to clean drains

Year Spent money (in Euros)
2008 188.000
2009 285.000
2010 300.000
2011 80.132
2012 423.000
2013 650.000
Total 1.826.000

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management

Experts comment for Inbox 7 that despite the regulation of Treska, many streams in the upper course of the river Vardar are not controlled. Any leads from intense rains and heavy water currents as Dzhepchishki torrent, Pena, Sharski watercourses, Lepenec, Markova Reka are great danger of flooding the downtown area in Skopje and this flood might still keep as accumulation in Skopsko Pole.

Urbanization of riverbeds suffocates rivers

Urbanization and unplanned facilities in riverbeds are seriously endangering rivers and reduce the absorption capacity of the atmospheric water in the land. Agrarians long appeal to stop the construction of facilities on fertile soil as in Skopje. Boris Anakiev, former professor at the Department of Agro economy at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Food says it is doing irreparable damage to agriculture.

“It is unacceptable to destroy first-class agricultural land and built facilities on such areas. Until 1990 there was a law that discouraged construction on fertile soil from 1 to 4 category, Skopje field is first category”, says Anakiev.

Apart from the fertile soils, unplanned facilities are “planted” in the river beds themselves.

“From an urban aspect, the population acts inappropriately and approaches the riverbeds. River being its own boss will pay for its usurpation”, says Professor Markoski.

Length of cleaned channels

Year Length in km
2008 80,5
2009 110,5
2010 138
2011 21,5
2012 68
2013 118
Total cleaned ducts 536
Total length of drainage channel network 1284

Source: Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management

The most recent example of Markoski’s assertion is the rivers Vardar and Otinje in Stip. For several years in Stip they have tried twice to build parking lots on Otinje, and it has flooded twice. In Skopsko Pole houses and settlements are built in the area below the level of the river Vardar and during the lowest rainfall basements in Skopje villages are filled with water.