The general impression is that we cannot discuss renewable and clean energy projects, considering that building these plants destroys the ecosystem of and around rivers, threatening nearby rural settlements, and decimating nearby forests. So far 109 plants have been built and the plan is to build another 350-600.
All rivers and streams in BiH are under threat. The local population is left to its own devices, and is now resisting the destructive plant building projects, aimed at hoarding wealth of individuals, at the expense of communities.
Currently, locals and activists are fighting for the preservation of true pearls of nature, and untouched rivers Kruščica, Neretvica, Doljanka, Bjelava, Bunski kanal, Kasindolka, Kozica, and others. Activists know that the promises of employment, and the benefits of the plants for the local community, are straight up lies – they are joining up in solidarity and not allowing the rivers to be redirected into pipes. In defending their rivers, they are defending the survival of their children, and all future generations.
This is not only a battle against small hydro plants, this is a battle for justice, and dignity. The legal battle for rivers has shed light on a series of shortcomings and illegalities in the process of issuing permits. Institutions, in agreement with investors, are breaking laws in order to avoid local community involvement and their stance against these projects. The women of Kruscica defended the rivers from the machines for over 500 days. In the end, they have managed to legally combat environmental and other permits. However, the battle is not over as long as there are concession contracts, and as long as spatial planning across BiH includes building small hydro power plants.
Until building them isn’t legal, and hopefully in the future, all current plants are put out of use, our mission will not stop. After years of fighting, and a global campaign for saving the rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federal Government suddenly became sensitive to the activism.
At the meeting of representatives of the Federal Government and the River protection coalition, which took place mid-October this year, the government took a verbal turn in the discourse around building small plants. The Federal Prime Minister, Fadil Novalic, recognised they do more harm than good, that they are inefficient, and that we are to turn towards solar and wind energy sources. He also made a promise that our requests will be considered at Federal level, in order to slow down, and ultimately stop the building of new plants. This is why the pressure on governments is key to save rivers, and lives. An urgent reworking of the federal law is necessary to implement stricter regulations for environmental permits by the Federal Ministry of Environmental Protection, a removal of any incentives for hydro power plants building, and eventually a reform of all laws regarding the protection of rivers and forests, to prevent any future building works.
The situation is similar in the second bosnian-herzegovinian entity of Republika Srpska, where activists are performing pressure on the governments to put public interest ahead of a private one.
The battle for rivers is a battle for clean, drinking water in BiH, a battle for life. We witness that this battle overcomes all ethnic and other differences, and the rivers unite us. This is giving us hope for a better, more just, and more beautiful Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Lejla Kusturica, activist