Planned hydro power plants on the River Vrbas

3.3.2019 - Krupa na Vrbasu

In October 2018, in Mrkonjić Grad on the River Vrbas, the Bočac 2 hydro power plant (HPP) was put into operation. Prior to the completion of the construction, the company “Hidroelektrane na Vrbasu” had already requested a new concession for the construction of yet another hydro power plant, called “Krupa”. In addition to the existing hydro power plants on the River Vrbas, the construction of the Grbići HPP downstream from the village of Krupa na Vrbasu and another HPP in the village of Babin Potok is planned.

At the beginning of 2018, the Minister of Energy, and Mining of the Republika Srpska, Petar Đokić, and the director of the Saint Petersburg company “Rakurs inženjering”, Leonid Černigov, signed an agreement on cooperation on the realization of a project for constructing a cascade of medium-sized hydro power plants on the River Vrbas worth 500 million Euros. Four hydropower plants should be constructed near the villages of Trn, Laktaši, Kosjerovo, and Razboj.

About the River Vrbas

The Vrbas is a 250-kilometre-long river that has its source under the Zec mountains and flows into the River Sava at the town of Sprbać. The Vrbas river basin has an area of about 5900 square kilometres and about 500 thousand people live on its banks. Upstream from the city of Banja Luka the Vrbas flows through a canyon and numerous gorges that are protected under a 1955 law on the protection of natural values.

The River Vrbas has 36 direct tributaries more than 10 kilometres long, of which the most important are the Pliva, Ugar, Crna rijeka, and Vrbanja. The tributaries of the Vrbas are known for their rich freshwater fish diversity and the Vrbas itself for the presence of 22 fish species. The most common species that can be found in the upper course are trout, grayling, and the huchen. Their presence is evidence of the exceptionally high quality of the water. 

Throughout its entire course, the River Vrbas has ideal conditions for the development of high biological diversity. The cliffs of the Vrbas canyon are home to eagles, falcons, and hawks. The canyon of the River Vrbas is also a paradise for rafters, kayakers, and canoeists, as well as for anglers.

Krupa HPP

The project for the Krupa HPP (14 MW) is planned to have an 18-20-metre-high wall. The accumulation lake would flood a road along the canyon that serves as an important traffic artery. The relocation of a 10 kilometre-long part of the road from the left to the right bank of the river would be a necessity.

At the end of November 2017 a diverse group of local people, journalists, representatives of the ecological NGO Center for Environment, the construction company, and the investor gathered on the Krmnog bridge over the River Vrbas. The participants  were responding to an invitation to hold a discussion with the citizens of the local community in Krupa na Vrbasu.

Viktor Bjelić from Center for Environment stated that the project was harmful to the city of Banja Luka, to the Republika Srspka, and to the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Upstream from Banja Luka the River Vrbas has a great fall and self-purification power, and therefore the construction of any dam in that part would lead to deterioration of the water quality and to a threat to the water supply of the citizens of Banja Luka. In addition, another dam would threaten the presence of the Danube salmon, the giant species that is endangered and endemic to the Danube basin.

The citizens of Krupa na Vrbasu raised their voices too and expressed their dissatisfaction with the planned construction of the HPP, and emphasized that they would gain no benefit from the "Bočac 1" and "Bočac 2" hydro power plants and that they would not benefit from the planned HPP either. In their opinion, the hydro power plant would bring only harm and they explicitly declared that they would not give up their land for the construction of the Krupa HPP.

In June 2018, the local community[1] of Krupa na Vrbasu voted on the project for the Krupa HPP, with a clear negative result when six of the seven members raised their hands against it.

2004 fight for the Vrbas

The fight against the destruction of the River Vrbas has lasted for more than a decade. In 2004 the government of the Republika Srpska signed a contract worth 165 million Euros for the construction of two HPPs on the River Vrbas, the Krupa and Banja Luka–Niska HPPs. It was followed by an immediate and strong reaction on the part of civic society. The Coalition for the Protection of the River Vrbas collected over 17, 000 signatures against hydro power plants on the Vrbas. The local government of Banja Luka then gave a negative opinion and the HPPs were never constructed.

Let's protect our rivers

Numerous ecological associations from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina have joined the defence of the River Vrbas. The Vrbas is not the only river that is under threat, though. Over the years activists, ecologists, and locals have jointly managed to stop the construction of hydro power plants on the Rivers Sutjeska, Hrčavka, Kruščica, Neretva, Ljuta, Buna, Una, Unac, Željeznica, Vrbas, and others.

Bosnia and Herzegovina ranks first in the region of the Western Balkans and seventh in Europe in sources of drinking water. Numerous thermal and sulphur springs have great potential for the development of spa tourism, which is as yet little developed.

And while in Bosnia and Herzegovina the rivers are being destroyed, dams are being torn down in some of the European countries where they realized that hydro energy does not equal green energy, as previously thought.

[1] What is called the “local community” is a special organ consisting of citizens that has an advisory vote in relation to local government.

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