Doljanka – another natural treasure given up for the sake of profit

10.12.2018 - Jablanica

The boom in the construction of hydropower plants on the rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina has long been no novelty. The total number of planned projects and possible ecocide is because there are 300 new projects planned on the 244 rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The River Doljanka in Jablanica is awaiting the same destiny as that of the rivers on which hydropower plants had already been built.

In 2014, the Government of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton granted concessions for the use of the River Doljanka for the purpose of electricity generation by constructing the small HPP "Zlate," with a total installed power of 3.2 MW and the small HPP "Pačići," with a total installed power of 1.3 MW in the municipality of Jablanica. Next year, Mirza Teletovic, the famous basketball player in the NBA, will receive a concession for the construction of two small hydropower plants through his company Eko-Vat. At first ,there was a concession contract, followed by the settlement of property law relations. It is interesting that there are only two projects on the website of Eco-Vat, both in the phase of preparation for construction, the small HPP “Zlate” and the small HPP “Pačići.”

At the end of 2018, the villagers of Jelačić and Zlata started their protest against the construction of the HPPs and launched a petition that was signed by 95% of the locals. The reason why the residents oppose the two small HPPs on the River Doljanka is because of the destruction of the only remaining river in the municipality of Jablanica and the river that serves as the spawning ground of the endemic marble trout (Salmo marmoratus) and the destruction of the unique ecosystem, where a protected area is planned. As the locals claim, in this case, the private interest prevails over public interest. The Doljanka River is an 18-kilometer-long tributary of the Neretva and the Marble Trout migrates from the Neretva to the Doljanka during the spawning season. Thanks to its purity, the river allows for the  development and survival of various types of fish. Doljanka flows through a limestone canyon, which is a habitat for many other endemic plant and animal species. It has a small number of tributaries (the Bijeli Creek, Trn, Loznik and Cvitan), but the water mostly comes from underground karst waters.

In spite of opposition of the local people, the works began in October of 2018. As a reaction, the locals launched a lawsuit to announce the decisions of the ministry that granted the permit. On behalf of the Coalition for Protection of the Rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina issued a statement stating that, “The private investor, Eko-Vat, whose projects are publicly promoted by the famous basketball player Mirza Teletović, obtained the building permit for MHE Pačići and MHE Zlate in an invalid way. We recall that only small investors benefit from the construction of hydropower plants, while the citizens are paying for these harmful projects out of their own pockets through subsidies. The local community does not benefit and does not bring new jobs to the community-- only one man is enough to maintain even three HPPs. We are informing you that the machines have been working on the River Doljanka, despite the opposition from the locals. The construction of hydropower plants leads to the exploitation of natural resources and local communities and the flora and fauna for the benefit of an individual."

Encouraged by these events, 22 ecological associations and initiatives wrote a letter. In the letter, among other things, it is stated that There is no work; there is no hope; there is only natural beauty left. In return for the destruction of the river, people are promised compensation and jobs. What is deliberately not said is that it is powered by hydropower plants and a maximum of two or three people are needed because everything is automated. In return for the destruction of the river, they say, there will be money for the municipality. Mirza, now in the role of a businessman, calculates 50 thousand kilometers per year. The river with the canyon that is one thousand years old and has clear water coming from the heart of a mountain with the same price as the annual rent of a business space in Sarajevo.

Small hydropower plants are not socially, ecologically, or economically justified, and bring much more harm than benefit to everyone, except for those who benefit from their construction and operation. The construction of hydropower plants destroys the environment, dries up the riverbeds, and changes the appearance of the landscape irreversibly. Like many other destroyed natural resources, the River Doljanka is a victim of power, corruption, and underdeveloped environmental awareness. The locals won their fight for justice, but the environmental damage is already made.

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