Thursday, 8 January 2009

Gas spats and snow

Like much of Europe, Bosnia has been having a bit of a cold snap this past week. Temperatures haven't been above freezing point for a while now, the next weeks predictions are for a high of -2C and lows of around -15C. Last night about a foot of snow fell and everything has suddenly turned white. Normally, snow and cold aren't too much of a problem here, people are used to it, all the cars have (or are supposed to have) winter tyres and snow chains. Houses are well heated.

However, Russia and the Ukraine have been having a bit of a spat about something, and have turned off the gas pipe line in the Ukraine. This has had a knock-on effect for the supplies of gas in Bosnia which have stopped overnight (see article here). People are starting to panic and have bought out electric heaters in the stores. Tuzla is less affected than most, as many of us are on the municipality heating which is supplied by the industrial coke burning plant on the outskirts of town. However there are rumours that this isn't as secure as we had supposed; a similar smelter in Zenica may have to halt, halting that city's municipality heating whilst they are at it.

In the absence of gas, many will turn to electricity to heat their homes, which will cause rather a large surge of usage in the national grid, which may not be able to cope with it. Indeed, we have noticed the electricity going up and down like a yo yo anyway these past few days. I'm off to stock up on candles, locate our torches and test their batteries and to find our camping gas stove in case we lose power for a while.

As Bosnia hasn't got the cash or infrastructure to hold any gas reserves, this spat (which has nothing to do with Bosnia) has the potential to cause real misery here. Fingers crossed they sort it all out like the grown ups they are supposed to be.

Time to stop being flippant. Large parts of Sarajevo, Zenica and Zvornik (where I do most of my research) have now lost heating. They estimate there are 100,000 households are affected. I'm very rude about the massive power station on the outskirts of Tuzla, particularly when they light it up luminous green, but right now, it is my favourite thing in the world. Long may it keep pumping out noxious fumes.

No comments: