Bosnia and Herzegovina country briefing - The European environment — state and outlook 2015

Briefing Published 18 Feb 2015 Last modified 11 May 2020
6 min read
Photo: © Clark & Kim Kays

Main themes and sectors addressed in the national State of Environment report

The Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) Constitution states that jurisdiction in environmental issues is split between entities (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina - FBiH and Republika Srpska - RS), the district of Brčko (BD), and at the cantonal/municipal level. The only institution at the state level with jurisdiction in environmental issues is the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Relations (MoFTER)

Almost all environmental legislation operate at entity and BD level. All international agreements and projects are coordinated through the MoFTER. 

Laws on environmental protection in the FBiH, the RS and the BD, as well as laws on water, are the founding legal acts that define and set out goals, principles, measures, responsibilities, documents, financing and supervision of environmental protection in BiH.

The 2012 State of the Environment Report (SOER) of BiH[1] is the first one of its kind within the country. It is viewed as one of the founding documents on environmental protection in BiH.

Due to the lack of state level legislation governing environmental protection and thus providing a basis for the development of such a report, the 2012 SOER was made under the framework of the UN Joint Program "Mainstreaming environmental governance: linking local and national action in BiH".

The SOER represents a comprehensive overview of the state of the environment and trends, pressures and their effect on the environment, for the following topics:

  • Forest resources;
  • Land and Soil Resources;
  • Surface and Groundwater Resources;
  • Biological and Landscape Diversity;
  • Air Pollution and Ozone Depletion; and
  • Climate change. 

Key findings of the State of Environment report 

Forest cover is extended to 50% of the total territory of BiH. Landmines are a potential threat to forests, causing certain areas to become unavailable for treatment and recovery efforts which aim to preserve the health of trees (e.g. protection from the bark beetle). Even though there are no data on illegal logging, there is a need to monitor the state and implementation of activities with the aim to prevent them. 

Land and soil resources are also among the most significant natural resources in BiH, the primary function of which is the production of food and raw materials. BiH covers an area of 5 112 879 hectares and close to 52% (2 600 000 ha) of the total land area is suitable for agriculture. The remainder is considered forestland.

The division of agricultural land per capita is 0.56 ha in the FBiH and 0.90 ha in the RS. When fertile land is considered, the state in the FBiH declines further, to 0.23 ha per capita, which is half the size compared to the RS (0.46 ha).

Wastewater treatment. In BiH, there is a clear problem of inadequate waste water discharge. Only some municipalities in the Federation and two in the RS have functioning facilities for sewage water treatment. In 2009, a positive trend of increasing treatment quality continued, as evidenced by an increase in the share of biological treatment methods. Meanwhile, in 2010 there was a slight decrease.

Biodiversity and protected areas. The richness of the living world in BiH is a result of spatial and ecological heterogeneity, geomorphologic and hydrological diversity, a specific geological past and climate diversity. The living world of BiH is characterized by a high degree of endemic and relic forms of living organisms. More than 5 000 species and sub-species of vascular plants, more than 100 species of fish, over 320 species of birds and other components of biological diversity have been identified in BiH. Different categories of protected areas in BiH are presented in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Categories of protected areas

Source: State of the Environment Report 2012 in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Air quality. Air quality in urban areas deteriorate during the winter period, due to emissions from stationary sources (small furnaces) and mobile sources (transport), combined with the location of cities in the valleys. Concentrations of SO2 and PM10 exceed limit values in winter period, accompanied with heavy smog.

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Due to relatively low total energy generation and consumption, as well as low energy generation and consumption per capita, BiH remains a small emitter of GHGs with a total of 24.14 Mt CO2 equivalents in 2005. Taking into account emission and estimated population size of 3.85 million, as well as calculation of GAINS model (Greenhouse Gas-Air pollution Interactions and Synergies), emission per capita in BiH for 2005 was 6.36 tons of CO2 equivalent (UN Economic Commission for Europe, 2011).

Main policy responses to key environmental challenges and concerns 

Besides the legislation, enforcement regulations, rules and procedures, and international documents, a large number of strategic documents were adopted during the period 2000–2012, which present the basis of continuous BiH efforts to implement reforms in the environment sector:

  • the Solid Waste Management Strategy (2002);
  • the BiH National Environmental Action Plan – NEAP BiH (2003);
  • the UNECE EPR1 – First Environmental Performance Review (2004);
  • the First National Report on the Implementation of UN Convention to Combat Desertification/ Land Degradation in BiH (2007)[2];
  • the Initial National Communication to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2009)[3];
  • I, II, III and IV[4] BiH report to UN Convention on Biological Diversity (2005-2010);
  • the Biological Diversity Strategy with Action Plan (2010);
  • the UNECE EPR2 – Second Environmental Performance Review (2011)[5];
  • the NCSA Report (National Capacity Self-Assessment, 2012);
  • the Study on Energy Sector in BiH (2008)[6];
  • "BiH in the Process Rio + 20" - BiH report for the UN Convention on Sustainable Development (UNSDC) which was held in Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June, 2012; and 
  • the Second National Communication to the UNFCCC (2012)[7].


Some important documents still need to be adopted, such as:

  • Water Policy in BiH;
  • National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan; and 
  • enacting more legislation to be harmonized with the EU acquis.

Country specific issues

Environmental governance in BiH focuses on institutions at four administrative levels: state, entity, cantonal and municipal. According to the Constitution, environmental policies and natural resource use are the responsibility of entity and BD governments which regulate environmental matters through laws, regulations and standards.

However, when the Law on Ministries and Other Bodies of Administration of BiH was adopted in March 2003, the MoFTER was given the power to define policies and basic principles, coordinate activities and harmonize plans of the entity bodies, government and institutions. This is in accordance with international obligations in the areas of agriculture, energy, environmental protection, development and use of natural resources and tourism.

Even though such a complex administrative structure suffers from a lack of vertical (entity/canton/municipality) and horizontal (inter-entity/inter-ministerial/inter-municipality) cooperation, a shift forward in the environment sector reform implementation is evident.

The BiH accession process to the EU is one of the main driving forces in the environment sector reform, which, for the most part, applies to the harmonization of domestic legislation with the acquis communautaire.

In the period 2002 to 2004, the FBiH,the RS and the BD adopted a set of environmental laws that are the basis for drafting subordinate legislation at all levels. Despite the accomplishments reached so far, certain areas are still unregulated by legislation.

Besides the adopted legislation, by-laws, regulations and procedures and ratification of numerous international agreements, during the period 2000 to 2012 a significant number of strategic documents were drafted, showing continuing efforts of BiH in achieving reform in the environment sector.




The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.


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