The Ulcinj Salina is still in danger

An interview with Jovana Janjusević and Zenepa Lika

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© Janinka Lutze
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They have been committed to Ulcinj Salina for years: Jovana Janjušević (CZIP) and Zenepa Lika (MSJA). 

© MSJA

In the summer of 2019, the Ulcinj Salina was designated a protected area. Our Montenegrin colleagues describe the situation just over a year after this major interim success. For some time, all has not been well in the bird paradise. Jovana Janjusević from the Center for Protection and Research of Birds of Montenegro (CZIP) and Zenepa Lika from the Dr Martin Schneider-Jacoby Association (MSJA) are worried, but international support is giving them hope.


The Ulcinj Salina has been a protected area since 2019 and public pressure has worked. Is there still a need for international support?

Zenepa Lika (MSJA): Absolutely, now more than ever! The international attention put sufficient pressure on the government for it to take action to protect the salina. We were finally listened to. We must now get the government to clarify ownership once and for all*. Only then will an investor be found to finance salt production. Only then can we really help to repair the salina and make it attractive again for people and birds.

*Note: An analysis by Transparency International Montenegro shows that the salina belongs to the state of Montenegro and is not private land. However, a final court decision has been delayed for years. 


So, is the salina no longer attractive to birds? What is it like there right now and how do you feel when you walk through the area?

Lika: On the one hand, the Ulcinj Salina is finally under formal protection and I'm very happy about that, but the situation on the ground is far from good.

“Over half of the salt pans have completely dried out. That means there is less food for the birds." Zenepa Lika, MSJA

The required renovation of the salina, including the sluices, dykes and canals, is becoming more expensive every day. I’m very worried about that.


Is the gradual loss of birdlife in Ulcinj Salina already obvious?

Jovana  Janjusević (CZIP): Unfortunately, yes. Our ornithologists are carrying out regular surveys and their data are clearly showing that the ecosystem of the salina is going through a tremendous change for the worse. The ruins of the former salt factory are being scattered all over the place and just recently we managed to save European roller nesting boxes full of chicks from being cut down and sold as old scrap metal.  

What worries you most when you think about the future of Ulcinj Salina?

Janjusević: Our biggest worry is that the salina will remain a paper tiger or that people will be entrusted with its management who are neither competent nor interested in preserving the ecological diversity of the salina.


What is the next hurdle we have to overcome?

Janjusević: First of all, we need an emergency package for urgent repairs which we want to use to support the municipality of Ulcinj. The salina and its damaged ecosystem must be restored. This is a costly action but urgently needed for the sake of biodiversity.


What  gives you hope and what encourages you to keep on fighting for Ulcinj Salina?

Janjusević: The story of the Ulcinj Salina is one of solidarity. We’re protecting a valuable habitat for migratory birds on the Adriatic Flyway. At the same time, commitment to the salina is connecting people across Europe with one another, and with nature. In the past, whenever we stumbled, there were hands to help us up again.

"It gives us strength to know that the Ulcinj Salina doesn't just have friends in Montenegro, but all over Europe." Jovana Janjusević, CZIP

Lika: It's incredibly liberating and motivating to work together towards a goal and to see that work bearing fruit. When I walk through the salina today, I’m walking through an officially protected area for which, for over 20 years, so many people have fought, and which over a hundred thousand people have signed up to support. We’re working to preserve an incredibly important area of Europe's biodiversity. At the same time, through the cultural treasure that is the Ulcinj Salina, we’re protecting a source of identity for future generations. That makes it worthwhile, even if it is made difficult for us.

 

Interview: Katharina Grund

 

 

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