People against hydropower
Since August 2017, hundreds of people have been peacefully protesting on the edge of the village in order to prevent construction of two small hydropower plants (Kruscica 1 and Kruscica 2). Local residents are concerned that such development would harm the amount and quality of drinking water and preclude their free access to water. Only the private investor will benefit from the construction of these plants while the negative impacts are to be bore by local community.
Hydropower plants in a protected area? No problem, if you deal behind closed doors…
Plans for the construction date back to 2008 when the environmental permit for Kruscica 1 was granted. Back then, the issue didn’t receive appropriate attention. To fulfil his obligation, the investor organized a public hearing – only behind closed doors. The meeting was held in a house of investor’s companion without proper public notification, only upon an invitation sent to trusted friends and relatives.
Despite the lack of information, the fishermen and hiking associations managed to prepare and submit comments to environmental permit. However, these were not accepted.
Villagers were ignored once again when requesting an access to the environmental and construction permits. Public authorities failed to provide the minutes of yet another hearing (this time to spatial plan) for which the villagers claim that never happened. Yet, the HPP obtained all necessary permits without any problem and despite the facts that the construction site is located in drinking water protection zone and the river with surrounding area are projected to be a Park of Nature.
When most of the citizens learned about the plans in full, their possibilities to influence the projects were already negligible.
Women defending their river…
Late as it was, the people of Kruscica started to act immediately – they organized series of protests, petition and several times asked the mayor for a meeting. Being rejected repeatedly, they decided to protect the river with their own bodies and organized a blockade of the bridge over Kruscica river. Their activities did not stay without attention. On August 24th, early in the morning at the crack of dawn, riot police violently removed the peaceful protesters from the bridge while causing serious injuries to more than 27 people. At that time, mostly women were present on the bridge while men were prepared upstream on the supposed construction field. The police acted violently and with no mercy. Regardless their overbalance in strength and in numbers they started to drag the women away from the rest, insulting them using sexual connotations, tearing their clothes or traditional headscarves and even physically injuring more than a half of nonresistant women. There are no doubts that the intervention was ordered by the investor, the truck and excavator arrived that morning together with the police. The plan unsurprisingly worked, the machines passed by the beaten villagers and entered the riverbed.
We are all Kruscica
The villagers kept on protesting until the machines left. Nobody knows what the next step will be, the investor is quietly waiting while the locals are organizing shifts and plan to guard the river nonstop. Just in these days we can see that power has no shame – the group of women was accused from illegal blockade and brought to a court. Six of them were recently elected as representatives of local community. They don't plan to give up.
Al Jazzera: Žene Kruščice pred sudom u Travniku
Impuls Portal: Kruščica - Ekološki aktivizam i osnaživanje žena