Montenegro UNbacked project turns toxic site into ecotourism hub

9 September 2010A United Nations-backed project in northern Montenegro has transformed a town blighted by pollution from a nearby zinc mine into a magnet for ecotourism that aims to now attract kayakers, bicyclists and mountain hikers. Municipal officials in the town of Mojkovac organized the clean-up of a lake poisoned by chemical run-off from the former mine into a recreational area based around adventure tourism and ecotourism, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) reported yesterday.The project is part of the UNDP-backed Western Balkans Environmental ‘Hot Spots’ programme, a three-year initiative funded by the Netherlands to assist areas in the region that suffered from industrial pollution.UNDP is working with the municipality to develop organic agriculture and possible alternative uses for the closed mine, such as a museum or underground bicycle trail. A kayak club has been set up and other ecotourism opportunities are being explored.UNDP Administrator Helen Clark visited Mojkovac with national officials yesterday, hailing the project for removing the “rather toxic legacy” from the town.“I think Montenegro has a really special environment out there and the opportunities for ecotourism are endless,” she said. “You can do anything out there in those hills and valleys!”Miss Clark is visiting Montenegro and Moldova as part of a trip spotlighting the two Eastern European countries’ efforts to reduce poverty and boost social and economic development.After arriving in Chisinau, Moldova, Miss Clark told reporters today that the country had made progress on most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the social and economic targets which world leaders have agreed to strive to attain by 2015.Later this month the world’s countries will gather at UN Headquarters in New York to review overall progress so far and determine where efforts should be focused over the next five years.The UNDP chief also said her agency would work closely with Moldova to help it recover economically from the impact of recent floods.