By Sgt. Angela Paraday
121st Public Affairs Detachment
KOSOVO (1/10/13) - Kosovo Force soldiers from Multinational Battle Group-East on Tuesday constructed an obstacle along the route leading from Dragalic to Babilic.
The road that runs along the Gaziovode/Gasivoda Lake in northern Kosovo is twisting, long and constricted. It is not meant for the heavy commercial vehicles that have been using the road more frequently. Recent winter weather conditions have made the road conditions worse.
A fuel spill on Dec. 25, into the lake made it imperative that something be done to prevent further accidents and environmental damage. A fuel truck overturned at a sharp turn along the road, spilling an estimated several hundred gallons of fuel.
According to MNBG-E reports, most of the fuel went into the lake. On the lake’s surface, an oil sheen was visible over an area of 2 to 3 square kilometers.
Maj. Jason Smith, task force engineer for MNBG-E, said that the construction of this obstacle was a direct result of the fuel spill. The men who fish in the lake called to report the spill expressed concern for their livelihood and for the safety of the lake and the nearby inhabitants.
Anytime there is a fuel spill, its impacts are much more far reaching than the initial spill itself, said Smith, of Cornelia, Ga.
From drinking-water supplies to wildlife, the consequences can impact overall health and beauty of the environment, the wildlife, and the nearby residents. The commander of KFOR, Maj. Gen. Volker Halbauer, asked MNBG-E to ensure that this did not happen again.
The multinational effort was then planned and researched to find the best possible solution for both the local residents and the environment. The goal was to control the size of vehicles that were traveling the route, while still keeping the road safe for the people that need to use it for their daily activities.
“We are putting this obstacle in to provide a safer, more secure route along the lake itself,” Smith said. “We are trying to make things safer for the people of Kosovo, not limit them in any way. The people in the local communities will be able to get to their homes and travel the route. Larger, commercial vehicles will not be able to get through this route. However, the road to the Brnjak gate and the paved road on the other side of the lake, both much safer roads, will still be open to commercial traffic.”
Spc. Joseph Marcus, a bridge-crew member from the 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, South Carolina Army National Guard, recently arrived in Kosovo. This is the first deployment for Marcus, who lives in Greer, S.C., and also the first engineering project he has worked on.
He said the soldiers were there to help set up an obstacle that would allow only smaller passenger cars to travel down the narrow road.
The Soldiers woke up early and went through all of their readiness checks and briefings. They had the trucks loaded by 4:30 a.m., left from Camp Novo Selo, and headed up to Dog 31 shortly after.
“It’s important we are here doing this, so that there isn’t another fuel spill like there was a few weeks ago,” said Marcus. “This is important; this road runs right down to the lake. The fuel polluted the water; it’s harming the wildlife. It’s not good.”
Capt. Adam Smith, an engineer with the 218th MEB, said that this mission took nearly two weeks to plan. Close coordination with the Serbian Armed Forces was crucial as KFOR soldiers had to pass through a small section of Serbia to complete this work.
“We just let them know our plan, we worked with them to achieve our goals,“ said Adam Smith, who lives in Summerville, S.C. “They agreed, they didn’t have any issues with what we are trying to do.”
The obstacles along the route from Dragalic to Babilic are emplaced there for the safety of the people of Kosovo, their environment and their livelihoods. Road signs in English and Serbian are posted on either side of the obstacle, with ample room for the larger vehicles to turn around. There is also a turn-around area right in front of the obstacles if drivers realize they cannot negotiate the narrow turns when they get there. The best advice is to stick to the paved roads along the other side of the river. The main routes are safer, more secure, and will get larger vehicles and goods to their destination.