Civil Protection in Kosovo*

Kosovo’s population of 1.9 million is exposed to both hydrometeorological and geological hazards: floods, heavy snowfalls, drought, forest fires, and earthquakes. Flash floods are common in mountainous areas, sometimes leading to mudslides. Kosovo is also exposed to landslides, particularly in Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, Prishtinë/Pristina, Peja/Pec, and Shtërpcë/Strpce. At least one quarter of the communities are vulnerable to landslides and rock falls. Other hazards that threaten Kosovo are riverine floods (in plains) and cloudbursts (in Prishtinë/Pristine, Mitrovicë/Mitrovica, Besianë/Podujevo, and Gjakovë, due to the structural vulnerability of dams in these areas). In some highly exposed river basins (such as the Drini basin, in the western half of the country) floods occur every two to three years.

Seasonal fluctuations in precipitation can severely affect agricultural production in regions that depend on rainfall for growing crops and have no alternative irrigation system. Kosovo has faced drought several times in the last two decades (in 1993, 2000, 2007, and 2008). In 2000, moderate to severe droughts affected most of the territory of Kosovo. Since 2004, 80 percent of Kosovo municipalities have, at one time or another, suffered from water shortages because of inefficient water management systems (Save the Children 2018).

Forests comprise 43 percent of the territory of Kosovo and are especially prone to fires during the dry or summer season. Since 2000, the number of forest fires has increased; fire brigades and other relevant operational teams have carried out 2,000 to 3,000 interventions in the course of a single year. It is anticipated that exposure to hazards such as drought, floods, and wildfires will increase with climate change and the greater frequency of extreme climate events (Republic of Kosovo 2013).

Stemming from the goals established by the Kosovar parliament (protection of life and health of the population and society’s functionality, safeguard of the ability to maintain fundamental values such as, democracy, rule of law and human rights and freedoms), EMA – Emergency Management Agency – aims at:

– Reducing the risks and vulnerabilities of society

– Developing the ability of society to deal with disasters and emergencies

– Strengthening, coordinating, and directing the management of disasters, crisis, and emergencies

Among EMA’s responsibilities fall: a permanent & coherent development of emergency management strategy & policy, risk Assessment, National Response Plan’s Development, implementation of the European Standards on civil preparedness and emergency response in Kosovo.

Beyond being active in international programs (e.g., IPA Floods and Fires) EMA is involved locally in managing and overcoming emergencies, such as the 8-14 January 2021 floods. On the occasion, EMA activated teams with the assistance of High-Capacity Pumping (HCP) modules, Float Rescue using Boats modules and Critical Infrastructure Protection Response (University Clinic Centre of Kosovo, Pulmonology Department, and others outside UCCK, Interconnection Kosovo Albania in Drenas). Rescue evacuation was conducted in parts and municipalities endangered by the floods through local units of Fire-fighters and volunteers from NGOs which assisted in pumping operations, but also in assisting citizens affected by the flood. EMA also coordinated and activated local and central capacities on emergency response such as Kosovo Security Forces. Early warning partners of Kosovo Emergency Management Agency, except others, are and Kosovo Hydro Meteorological Institute KHMI which deals with forecasting and warning of hydro-climatic disasters, specifically floods, continuously through its monitoring networks (meteorological and hydrometric), using a number of models for forecasting and cooperation with some of the neighbouring, continuously informs the EMA, and other relevant institutions and citizens, during aggravated hydro meteorological situations, whether for the whole country or for any particular area, depending on the situation.

(*) This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.