Peacekeeping helicopters dump waste in two Macedonian lakes
Tuesday, September 7, 1999
By Natasa Dokovska
Helicopters from the Kosovo International Peace Implementation Force (KFOR) have ejected unknown waste during the past week into two Macedonian lakes. KFOR has produced no answers to the urgent questions of the Macedonian government about the two incidents.
Last week the citizens of Prespa Lac were startled by the actions of helicopters from the the NATO led Kosovo peacekeeping force. Three KFOR helicopters ejected 12 or 13 lambet rockets at noon where more than 500 tourists were playing and resting on the lakeshore of Prespa Lac, known in English as Lake Prespa.
Immediately local government officials led by the mayor of the city, Arse Gesarovski, reacted. They ask the KFOR office what happened and what kind of unknown waste was ejected into the water of Prespa Lac.
At first, one of the spokesmen of the KFOR forces in Macedonia, Kalt Vetcel, denied that anything had happened. But after few hours, he admitted that one helicopter ejected "a few rockets" - he did not give the number - into Prespa Lac.
Vetcel said the cause of this incident is a technical mistake of a German helicopter.
Lake Prespa is the second largest lake in the Republic of Macedonia. A popular vacation spot, the beaches are sandy, and the temperature of the air in the summer is comfortable. Two thirds of the lake belong to the Republic of Macedonia, the other third to Greece and Albania.
The lake is already polluted by heavy metals and various chemicals, coming from industry and intensive agriculture around the lakes, according to a 1993 fact finding mission by the Hungary based Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe.
On Thursday, a few days after the first incident, there was a similar incident at a different lake. This time, KFOR's action took place at Dolnolipkovsko Lac in northern Macedonia, close to the Macedonian-Yugoslavian border.
Eye witnesses said that at noon several KFOR helicopters ejected 10 blue bags in the water of the Dolnolipkovsko Lac. Five minutes later, all across the area everyone perceived the unmistakable smell of sulphur.
Immediately, a representative of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and another from the Ministry of Health arrived on the scene. They expressed fear that this unknown waste could pollute the waters of the Lac.
They researched the place, but could not find the bags. They said they could not bring them up because the KFOR soldiers know where the water is deep and they ejected the bags there.
Vice Prime Minister Dosta Dimovska has asked the officials of KFOR's office in Macedonia to reply immediately, but no reply has been issued.
A Deputy of the Macedonian Parliament, Blagoja Stojkovski from the largest opposition party, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, asked what is happening and wants to know why the Macedonian government has no answers to their questions.
As Macedonian citizens are bewildered and the Macedonia government is questioning what is going on, Kolin Stoun, a spokesman for KFOR's forces in Macedonia says we must just wait for an official answer to the inquiries of the Macedonian government.
Stoun said he did not know that KFOR helicopters flew above this lake, and he denied knowing that KFOR helicopters had any hazardous waste onboard.
Questions are flying with the KFOR helicopters in the skies over Macedonia.