An abandoned town in Bosnia has been left to collapse

Serbs are kept in the dark about the fate of the bucolic village of Novo Banja, where a sewage treatment plant to treat Novo Banja’s waste has failed. Nobody seems to know when they’ll leave. Photo by: Andrey Sadovnikov/AFP/Getty Images

The writer Macmillan wrote in his classic novel The Old Men of Novo Banja, “All told it’s a beautiful spot, and possibly soon our sweet home will be made no more.”

Nearly a century later, the town of Novo Banja, a lush, agricultural patch nestled in a wooded valley near Bosnia’s border with Serbia, has fallen into such disrepair that both the U.N. and warring factions of the Bosnian War have shown little interest in repairing it. According to the New York Times, a sewage treatment plant to treat Novo Banja’s waste has failed, raising fears of epidemic disease and torrential flooding like the one in the Balkans this week.

The effects of urbanization, which has led to a recent influx of refugees from neighboring countries, have left the town abandoned by its residents as the damp, mud-brick buildings crumble around them. Some residents have already been forced to leave after neighbors advised them not to stay. But there is little prospect of finding housing elsewhere: “The region is divided,” spokesman to Bosnia’s president, Dragan Ćantović, told NPR, “so you’re either between a village or here. And nobody can work, and then there is no way to improve the place.”

Zera Kubac, a women’s rights activist in Novo Banja, told NPR, “If you try to stay here [during an emergency], you will be a prisoner in your house.” She noted that the city has only about 1,000 houses for its 50,000 residents.

But even the city’s nearest neighbor is frozen in time: only two years after the war, a hotel in Novo Banja renovated from wartime wreckage remained standing, though it was unable to provide protection for the destroyed homes in town. “It is an indicator of how little respect there is,” Gligorije Vidovic, a local historian, told the Guardian, “for what has happened since 1991.”

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