By: Miodrag Stosic
Vlasotince, Sept. 14, 2009 (Serbia Today) - One of the main problems of Serbian economy and society is an uneven development of different regions. However, what underdeveloped regions can and do offer is a great potential of natural resources, which is an ideal ground for tourism. Such is southeastern Serbia, an area with numerous natural beauties – mountains, rivers, forests and unpoluted water. Among them, there is a precious jewel – Vlasina Lake.
Vlasina Lake is an artificial lake, situated in Surdulica municipality, close to Serbian-Bulgarian border, at 1213 meters above sea level, covering an area of 16 square kilometers. It was built on Vlasina river from 1947 to 1951, and its creation was followed by construction of 4 Vlasina hydroelectric plants. The lake is widely known for its floating islands, made of peat from its shores. An area around the lake consists of several mountains with attractive peaks for climbing. Given it has a high level of biodiversity, with rich flora and fauna, it is protected by Serbian Government, that in 2006 created the national preserve „Vlasina“, covering wide area around the lake, and the lake itself.
There are many possibilities for touristic development in Vlasina region, that are only partialy exploited. Current capacities include hotels „Vlasina“ and „Narcis“, that are rarely full. The biggest number of tourists, although not big enough, is during summer and winter seasons, as well as in periods when sport (especially football) teams perform their preparations beside the lake. The main reason for modest exploitation of touristic potential is a lack of infrastructure. To build shopping centers, winter sports facilities, ski lifts, marinas for boats, better roads, etc. would help. That’s why Serbian Ministry of Tourism recently started to plan an ambitious project for development of tourism on the lake. However, it is obvious that the project is to be realized in many years to come, because Stara planina, another site with a great touristic capacity, is currently a top priority.
Given that touristic potentials are not used enough, economicaly the most successful enterprise in Vlasina area is „Vlasinka“ in Topli Do village, the factory which produces oligomineral drinking water, the famous „Vlasinska Rosa“ („Vlasina Dew“). It is currently owned by „Coca Cola“ company. This kind of production is possible because of numerous mountain springs in the area. Like the whole southeastern Serbia, Vlasina is also rich in drinking water of a high quality. That is one reason more to plan how to develop economic potential of this region and to invest in it – water is a strategic resource of the future.
People in Vlasina villages have modest lives, but they are mostly content. They are engaged in agriculture, especially cattle raising, and it seems that world economic crisis is non-existent to them. But they could surely do much better, if helped by Government and powerful investors. That is why there is still hope for this precious jewel of southeastern Serbia. Its potential will surely be recognized in difficult times to come, but the one who recognizes it now will have a greater right to exploit it.