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 Herzegovina-Neretva Canton granted concessions for the use of the River Doljanka for the purpose of electricity generation by constructing the small HPP "Gold," with a total installed power of 3.2 MW and 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, Eco-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 “Gold” and the small HPP “Pačići.”

At the end of 2018, the villagers of Jelačić and Zlata started their protest against the construction of HPPs and launched a petition that was signed by 95% of the locals. The reason why the residents oppose two small HPPs on the River Doljanka is because of the destruction of the only remaining river in the municipality of Jablanica, the river that serves as the spawning ground of the endemic marble trout (Salmo marmoratus). It is a 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 Neretva and the Marble Trout migrate from Neretva to 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 plants and animal species. It has a small number of tributaries (Bijeli Creek, Trn, Loznik and Cvitan), but the water mostly comes from underground karst waters.

Despite the opposition of the local people, the work began in October 2018. 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 Gold. We know 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 it does not bring new jobs to the community-- one man is enough to maintain three HPPs. We are informing you that the machines have been working on the River Doljanka, despite opposition from the locals. The construction of hydropower plants leads to the exploitation of natural resources, local communities, flora, and fauna for the benefit of the 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. To compensate 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 to three people are needed because everything is automated. They also say that 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 1,000 years old and has clear water coming from the heart of a mountain is 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 irreversibly changes the appearance of the landscape. 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 done.

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