Serbia will soon get its first organised disaster risk management, since a law regulating the area will be passed and a body systematically managing the issue established, said Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Flood Relief Marko Blagojević today.
At the panel titled “National Critical Infrastructure Protection System - Condition and Needs Analysis”, Blagojević stressed that in the total damage caused by the floods in May last year, valued at 1.7 billion euros, damage to critical infrastructure made more than two thirds, while a half, as much as 600 million euros was related to the damage in the energy sector. He further underscored that only a couple of months later Serbia was hit by freezing rain which paralyzed a part of the country and crippled the energy sector further.
He said that the focus had now shifted from the reconstruction to the prevention, exemplifying his point with the fact that in the last 20 years 19 dikes were constructed in Serbia, while only this year, as many as 23 dikes would be constructed. Blagojević also said that Serbia now got its first systematically organised approach to disaster risk management, stating that a draft disaster risk management law would be prepared in a few days.
“The floods in 2014 simultaneously hit 119 municipalities, 1.6 million people and within only a couple of days caused damage in the amount equal to 5% of Serbia's GDP. That is why it would most certainly be unwise not to manage disaster risks in future, now that we know what the consequences might be“, stressed Blagojević.
He added that the recovery of critical infrastructure was the key issue, but also the one which the general public found uninteresting, and thus it was not spoken about sufficiently.
Blagojević said that what the general public wanted to know last year was how many houses had been destroyed, how many new ones built and how many of those not completed yet would be finished.
“I can count on the fingers of one hand the questions I was asked in relation to the recovery of critical infrastructure, whereas this is actually the key issue“, said Blagojević.
He acknowledged, on the one hand, that every destroyed house was a tragedy in itself bringing misery to the affected family, stressing, on the other hand, that the damage caused to the water supply system in Trstenik hit 25,000 people, and that the damage to the water intake structure in Smederevska Palanka hit 15-20,000 people as well.
Blagojević underscored that it was essential to constantly ensure “only one thing – that Serbia becomes a bit more resilient every day, in terms of exposure to disaster risks“.
The event on protection of critical infrastructure was organised by the Faculty of Security Studies of the University of Belgrade, whose dean Radomir Milašinović underlined that the priority was to identify what might be threats, risks and hazards to any part of the system.
Our basic task is to identify the problems and find ways to solve them. It is important to foresee what lies ahead, what we are already facing and what could happen, explained Milašinović.
Deputy Head of the Emergency Sector Đorđe Babić said that the investments into the protection and rescue system as a whole had always been a point in question and yet they had been insufficient.
“There are many people who think that investments into the system are a waste of money. It is not so, this is the way to invest into our sustainable development and we are constantly making a point of that. Assessment of risks against all disasters and catastrophes is simply our duty, both in legal and social terms“, said Babić.
He underscored that critical infrastructure vulnerability assessment was one of the most important chapters, since Serbia suffered huge critical infrastructure damage and destruction in the floods, primarily in the energy sector.
“It seems to me that we still do not have comprehensive legislation regarding critical infrastructure protection. It is our duty, we have recognized it as such and we will work to establish it also through the implementation of the EU Accession Action Plan and the Action Plan for Chapter 24 which define all our future tasks“, said Babić.
The panel titled “National Critical Infrastructure Protection System - Condition and Needs Analysis“, organised by the Faculty of Security Studies of the University of Belgrade, is one of the activities within the international project of European Critical Infrastructure Protection, co-financed by the European Commission.