Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country rich in natural resources, which could be one of the drivers of development and economic growth. The potential is high in forestry, adventure and specialised tourism and water sports, the energy sector (hydropower and biomass utilisation), manufacturing and services. However, the overall awareness of policymakers and citizens of the intricate and subtle connection between environment and development is still fairly basic, with the result that these resources are not being adequately used or protected. Although there has been progress in the harmonisation of the legal aspects of environmental protection in each Entity, implementation of environmental legislation remains a concern. State-level environmental law or, as a minimum, harmonised modern legislation in both Entities, is needed to ensure a uniform countrywide approach to environmental protection and its challenges.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is among the top five countries in Europe in terms of biodiversity, with a high number of endemic and relict species. BiH is home to 30%, or 1,800, endemic species of Balkan flora and numerous threatened species. Nevertheless, only 2.5% of its territory is protected (compared to 10-15% elsewhere in Europe), which falls far below the EU average. Forests cover 53% of the territory, and BiH’s abundant water resources represent a real treasure in today's world.
Climate change, biodiversity degradation, pollution and ozone layer depletion are transnational issues, which cannot be addressed by countries acting alone. BiH is considered highly sensitive to climate change threats due to its climate-sensitive economic sectors, such as agriculture, forestry and hydropower/energy. It is therefore extremely important for BiH to adopt and implement the international conventions related to climate change and biodiversity issues (the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Convention on Biological Diversity).
One of UNDP’s most important goals is to change the perception of environment and energy management so that the sector’s potential for achieving sustainable development and improving people’s lives is realised.
Through projects targeting policy development and infrastructure enhancement, UNDP BiH endeavours to strengthen and develop the human and financial capacities of local, entity and national authorities and thus create a favourable environment for energy and environmental activities. The UNDP office also supports BiH in meeting its obligations towards the implementation of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The various projects support local development through the utilisation of energy potential (biomass utilisation and fuel switch projects, energy efficiency and renewable energy infrastructure projects, the development of energy consumption monitoring and reporting mechanisms and its vertical alignment through local, entity and state level authorities) and environmental protection (the inclusion of biodiversity into spatial planning, Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emission reduction, the fulfilment of BiH’s obligations to multilateral agreements, the development of Local Environmental Action Plans, unlocking environmental protection funds), while creating opportunities for economic benefit and green employment from biodiversity and natural resources for BiH citizens. Through its projects UNDP simultaneously raises people’s awareness on the possibilities that lie in their natural environment and the importance of its protection.
UNDP’s infrastructure projects provide affordable, safe and sustainable water supply and sanitation systems for BiH municipalities. Access to drinking water and sewage systems has now increased and the 2015 targets are close to being achieved. However, further efforts will be required to ensure access for all. Due to war damage and lack of investment and maintenance, most of the water and wastewater systems, built more than 25 years ago, suffer from a high level of network leakage (60% on average) resulting in large losses.