Kruscica: Ecological Activism and Empowerment of Women

27.8.2017 - Vitez

The river Kruščica, located in the village of the same name near the town of Travnik, is crystal clean and it supplies the surrounding communities and the nearby located city of Zenica by drinking water. It is a popular relaxation spot with more than 20 picnic houses scattered around the riverbank. The river and surrounded area used to be a very popular touristic place of former Yugoslavia with three hotels in the vicinity. This beautiful place is now being under threat due to planned construction of two hydropower plants which is happening despite strong ongoing protests of the local community. 

Purpose-built changes of spatial plan

The construction of Kruščica 1 and Kruščica 2 small hydropower plants (up to 1 MW) is to take place in the following days. The citizens first learned about the plans in 2008 when the environmental permit for Kruščica 1 was issued. Despite the local environmental NGOs together with fishermen and hiking association submitted comments, these were not accepted. The villagers were ignored when sending a request to access the environmental and construction permit and the authorities also did not answer on their request to provide minutes from the public hearing for the spatial plan for which the citizens claim that never happened. Despite this malpractice in the administrative procedures, the construction obtained all the necessary permits without problem. The villagers also claim the municipal plan was purpose-built changed in favor of the construction, while the interests of the people were not considered. The river and surrounded area were planned to be Nature Park which is now under consideration.

Construction despite protests of the local community

Since August 2nd, hundreds of people have been peacefully protesting and blocking a bridge in Kruščica in order to prevent entry of the machinery to the riverbed and thus to make it impossible to start the hydropower plant construction. They are concerned that the development would harm the amount and quality of drinking water of communities in the area. They also pointed out that the picnic houses and children playground which were built and financed by the municipality of Travnik only few years ago would have to disappear if the construction started and the local would lost the popular leisure place.

Riot police against the citizens

On August 24, early in the morning at the crack of dawn, riot police violently removed the peaceful protestors while causing serious injuries to more than 27 people. The group of citizens, mostly women, was at that time blocking a bridge in Kruščica in order to prevent entry of the machinery to the riverbed. The violent intervention is now under investigation of the Office of Ombudsman while the citizens continue to demonstrate.  

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