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

10.12.2018 - Jablanica

The boom in the construction of hydro power plants on the rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina has long been no novelty. The total number of planned projects indicates a possible ecocide as 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 which hit the rivers on which hydro power plants have 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 Teletović, the famous basketball player and a player in the NBA, will receive the concession for the construction of two small hydro power plants through his company Eko-Vat. At first there was the concession contract, followed by the settlement of property law relations. It is interesting that there are only two projects on the website of Eko-Vat, both in the phase of preparation for construction, the small HPP “Zlata” and the small HPP “Pačići”.

At the end of 2018, the inhabitants of the villages of Jelačić and Zlata started to protest against the construction of the HPPs and launched a petition that has been signed by 95% of the locals. The reason why the residents oppose the two small HPPs on the River Doljanka is the destruction of the only remaining river in the municipality of Jablanica and at the same time a river that serves as a spawning ground of the endemic marble trout (Salmo marmoratus) and the destruction of the unique ecosystem, where a protected area is planned to be established. As the locals claim, in this case the private interest prevails over the public interest. The River Doljanka is an 18-kilometre-long tributary of the Neretva and the marble trout migrates from the Neretva into the Doljanka during the spawning season. Thanks to its purity, the river allows the development and survival of various types of fish. The 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 potok, Trn, Loznik i Cvitan), but the water mostly comes from underground karst waters.

In spite of the opposition of local people, the works began in October 2018. As a reaction, the locals launched a lawsuit to annul the decisions of the ministry that granted the permit. On the behalf of the Coalition for the Protection of the Rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina they 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 Zlata in a non-valid 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 it doesn't bring new jobs to the community – only one man is enough to maintain even three HPPs. We are informing you that the machines have began works on the River Doljanka despite opposition from the locals. The construction of hydro power plants leads to exploitation of natural resources and of local communities and destroys the flora and fauna for the benefit of an individual.”

Encouraged by these events, an open letter was issued, signed by 22 ecological associations and initiatives. In the letter, among other things, it is stated that “without this river the people from the Jablanica region – as in many other regions throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina – have fewer and fewer reasons for joy. There is no work, there is no hope, there is only the natural beauty left. In return for the destruction of the river people are promised compensation and jobs. But what is deliberately not said is that to operate such hydro power plants 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 KM per year. So the river with a canyon that is thousands of years old and clear water coming from the heart of a mountain has the same price as the annual rent of a business space in Sarajevo.”

Small hydro power plants are not socially, ecologically, and economically justified, and bring much more harm than benefit to everyone, except to the individuals who benefit from their construction and operation. The construction of hydro power plants destroys the environment, dries up 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´t give up their fight for justice, but the environmental damage is already made.

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