Kruscica: Ecological Activism and Empowerment of Women

11.1.2018 - KRUSCICA

The river Kruščica, running through the village of the same name in Central Bosnia, is crystal clean and it supplies surrounding towns and cities with drinking water. It is a popular leisure spot with more than 20 picnic houses scattered alongside the riverbank. The locality used to be a very popular touristic place of former Yugoslavia with three hotels in the vicinity. This beautiful place is now being under a threat due to construction of two hydropower plants that are planned to be built on the river despite severe violation of citizens' rights to environmental decision-making and strong and persisting opposition of the local community. After a year-lasting blockade of a bridge over the Kruščica river, persecutions, fines and many legal disputes,  the locals could recently celebrate a big victory – in December 2018 the court recognized their objections and cancelled the spatial and urban permits for both hydro power plants. But their fight is going on as both plants remain in the spatial plan of the village.

People against (hydro)power

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.

Public authorities also 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. Since that moment they haven´t left the bridge. The bridge, renamed by locals to the Bridge of Brave Women of Kruscica, was never left unattended. Man kept guards during the nights, women at daytime. The people were guarding their river for 534 days till the Decembers´court decision. Their fight have not been finished, both plants remain in a spatial plan and they are going on with legal steps.

More information

Whose interests does the police protect while beating up women?
Riot police forcibly remove residents defending river against hydropower
The police violence in Kruscica investigated by the ombudsmen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, non-governmental organizations call for the attention of international bodies
Open letter to EU, OSCE and UN representatives regarding the police violence in Kruscica, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Citizens of Kruscica protect their river
The Coalition to Protect Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Rivers supports Kruščica
Peaceful protest for Bosnia and Herzegovinian river ended with interference by special police forces!

Al Jazeera: Mještani Kruščice protive se gradnji mini hidrocentrala
Al Jaezera: Žene Kruščice pred sudom u Travniku
Impuls Portal: Kruščica - Ekološki aktivizam i osnaživanje žena
Interventna policija nasilno uklonila mještane koji brane rijeku od hidroelektrana
Teror nad mještanima Kruščice
Građanke i građani Kruščice brane svoju rijeku
Koalicija za zaštitu rijeka BiH uz Kruščicu
Specijalci prekinuli mirni protest čuvara rijeka Bosne i Hercegovine!

International activities