Transforming environmental disaster into development opportunities

08 Sep 2010

Today UNDP chief Helen Clark traveled with Montenegro's Minister of Tourism, Predrag Nenezic, to the town of Mojkovac to view the town’s transformation after a massive cleanup of a toxic mine and the potential for eco and adventure tourism in the surrounding mountains. 

With support from UNDP, the city of Mojkovac embarked on a major environmental clean up to pave the way for green economic growth after years of heavy industrial pollution blighted the town.   This project has transformed a poisonous lake of chemical waste caused by a zinc mine into a recreational area that includes kayaking, rafting, and biking. 

“To go to Mojkovac and see the effects of the clean-up of the mine -  that is just going to change the life of that town so much,” said Helen Clark. “To have a clean recreational space and the ability to be a base for tourism, including eco-tourism and adventure tourism, rather than be associated with a rather toxic legacy.”

This project is part of the Western Balkans Environmental "Hot Spots" programme, a three year endeavor funded by the Netherlands involving six countries or territories that suffered from heavy industrial pollution.  UNDP works with the with the municipality on nature based tourism, the development of organic agriculture, and alternative uses for the closed mine such as a museum or an underground mountain biking trail.  Already a kayak club has been established  and work on adventure tourism, b ased on experiences from Slovenia.

“I loved the trip up into the mountains today with the Minister of Tourism” said Helen Clark.  “I think Montenegro has a really special environment out there and the opportunities for eco tourism are endless.  You can do anything out there in those hills and valleys!” 

The dramatic positive effects on the population, particularly children, are contained in the documentary, "Western Balkans - 8 steps foward" which was recently screened at the Sarajevo International Film Festival.