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Ecological bomb Port Milena, Montenegro


Channel Port Milena, built more than 130 years ago and once a natural lagoon and the largest fish hatchery in the southern Adriatic Sea, today is a black ecological spot and drain for sewage water. The salt processing plant, built in 1934, raised the embankment along the river Bojana that has stopped the river water inflow and therefore purification of the port and channel. The surrounding villages have their wastewaters discharged to the channel and the stream Bratica. In some parts the channel is almost completely dried out due to the accumulated waste and debris, as well as the illegal construction on its banks. The smell and dead fish in the channel started to repel the tourists. The NGO "Zeleni Korak" demanded the municipal and federal authorities to find a solution to the ecological crisis in Port Milena. The Feasibility study of a solution for the sewage system was financed by The Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism and the final cost of construction was estimated at 6.5 million USD. In 2000, there was a project proposal for the construction of a channel merging the river Bojana with Port Milena that would help purify the water by allowing a flow between 2.5 and 15 m3 of water per second. This project was never realized as the government never found the available land. Nowadays, the spatial and urban plan for the Municipality of Ulcinj and other relevant spatial planning documents are expected to provide plans for the construction of a sewerage network and wastewater treatment plant.

At the beginning of 2013 the Municipality did a water quality assessment and classification of the sludge and waste as a first step of the channel cleaning project. The Government of Slovenia, with United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and support from the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Montenegro and Ulcinj Municipality, approved funding for the implementation of the project “Preparation of environmental remediation in the area of Port Milena in Ulcinj by excavation and treatment of contaminated sludge and sediments".

However, instead of giving priority to remediation projects, the new and expensive bridge on Port Milena channel was constructed. The NGO "Zeleni Korak" proposed to build a cheaper functional bridge instead of the expensive one and to use the money saved for cleaning and restoring Port Milena. The Ulcinj Municipality in cooperation with the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism and with the support of UNIDO has planned a project cleaning the channel Port Milena should have started by the end of March 2014 and finish in 2016. This project has a total cost of 350,000 USD (285,000 provided by the Government of Slovenia and 65,000 by the Ulcinj Municipality and the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism). According to the report by the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism from 2015, the project of sanitation of Port Milena is in implementation. However, cases of severe water pollution in Port Milena were reported in 2015, caused by sewage discharge in Bratica and resulting in fish kills. Municipal authorities consider that there is no an adequate project for revitalization of the channel.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Ecological bomb Port Milena, Montenegro
Location of conflict:Ulcinj
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Urban development conflicts
Wetlands and coastal zone management
Water treatment and access to sanitation (access to sewage)
Specific commodities:Water
Tourism services

Project Details and Actors

Project details

The channel was 4 km long, 80 to 120 m wide and had a depth of 4 to 8 m. Wastewaters are coming from settlements gravitating to the channel and the stream Bratica: Donja Bratica, Kodra, Totoši and Bijela Gora. At the bottom of the channel and its banks there are more than 30,000 tonnes of debris and hazardous waste deposited, with the presence of heavy metals, toxic chemicals and waste motor oil. Around 20,000 m3 of concrete and iron was used for the new bridge.

Project area:10
Level of Investment:337,300
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:Around 10,000
Start of the conflict:2000
Company names or state enterprises:Agency for Construction and Development of Ulcinj from Montenegro
Relevant government actors:Ulcinj Municipality; Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism of Republic of Montenegro; Secretariat for Communal Services and Environmental Protection of Republic of Montenegro; Directorate for Traffic of Republic of Montenegro; the Government of Slovenia
International and Finance InstitutionsThe United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) - supporter of the rehabilitation project
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:NGO “Zeleni korak”

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Development of alternatives: NGO "Zeleni Korak" demanded the authorities to take urgent measures and halt the devastation of the Port Milena channel.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:According to Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, the two-year project of restoration and revitalization launched by Ulcinj Municipality in March 2014 is currently ongoing. However, in 2015 there was cases of water pollution in Port Milena cause by sewage discharge. In addition, municipal authorities consider that there is no an adequate project for revitalization of the channel.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Arhus Convention

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Poročilo o dejavnosti Republike Slovenije na Zahodnem Balkanu v letu 2015 in o uresničevanju Smernic za delovanje Republike Slovenije do Zahodnega Balkana


Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Jeziv prizor pred zgroženim turistima u Port Mileni

Port Milena – eko bomba

Dzelal Hodzic smatra da država i opština pogrešno pristupaju problemu sanacije port Milene

Ulcinj: Otvaranje mosta Port Milena u aprilu

Čiste kanal Port Milena

NVO„Zeleni korak“ pisala ministru turizma i održivog razvoja

Predsjednik NVO ‘’ZELENI KORAK”, Dželjal Hodži?, upozorava

Port Milena: Od simbola do problema

Đukanović otvorio most na Port Mileni

Port Milenu opet zatrpavaju šutom – Voda zagađena


Steering committee looks at progress made in clean-up of Montenegro’s Port Milena Channel as part of a UNIDO project

Ulcinj: Fekalije i isparenja doveli do zagađenosti i manjka kiseonika u vodi

Milo Đukanovi nakon otvaranja mosta na kanalu Port Milena u Ulcinju – Audio + Foto


Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Port Milena fishing huts near Ulcinj, Montenegro

Zagađenja ubijaju ribu u Ulcinju

Meta information

Contributor:Jovanka Spiric, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)
Last update25/05/2016



Port Milena channel became a dumpsite

Floating fish in Port Milena

Hundreds of dead fish floating in Port Milena Channel in August 2012