Some 90,000 people in rural areas of Kosovo and 160,000 people in urban areas have seen a marked improvement in their access to drinking water over the past 11 years. Also, around 25,000 inhabitants of villages now benefit from wastewater treatment. This development comes as a result of several projects receiving joint technical and financial support from SECO, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, and the SDC, the Swiss Agency for Development and
Cooperation. SECO takes charge of setting up the water supply infrastructure in urban areas, particularly the cities of Gjilan and Ferizaj, while SDC concentrates on the rehabilitation of outdated infrastructures and the expansion of the distribution network on the country side. Nonetheless, 25 to 30 per cent of the population of the country still had no running water in 2010, and 45 to 50 per cent were without a sewage system.
Deficiencies in the distribution network
Kosovo's water supply was far worse in 2000, when over half of the population had no access to a public water supply and almost 80 per cent were not connected to a wastewater treatment system. The main problem was not so much a lack of water but the deficiencies in the distribution system and the structures needed for ecologically sound wastewater management.
On account of its expertise in water, Switzerland has become an important partner for Kosovo. SECO finances the Secretariat of the Water Task Force, an inter-ministerial body set up to clarify all issues related to water. This concerns the revision of the relevant laws to improve resource management and create a good relationship between users and the institutions. The projects supported by Switzerland strengthen the State's resolve to assume its responsi- bilities. By including the local population, the project also entails an aspect of knowledge transfer in water supply. Furthermore, an approach based on communication has helped to create a climate of trust between the Albanian and Serb communities. The dialogue that arises between the different ethnic groups to jointly manage their water resources also acts as an effective means of conflict prevention.