World-famous waterfall in Jajce in jeopardy

26.3.2021 - Jajce

The Central Bosnian Canton is the place in Bosnia and Herzegovina with the most small hydropower plants (sHPPs) in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Currently, two new sHPPs, “Elektrobosna” and “Pijavice”, are being planned by the Bosnia Green Energy Project (BGEP) on the River Pliva in the town of Jajce.

The Elektrobosna sHPP is set to be larger and produce up to 7.94 GWh, Pijavice 6.30 GWh. The sHPPs would be located only a few hundred metres from the Pliva Waterfall in Jajce, ranked among the twelve most beautiful waterfalls by the Lonely Planet Guide. Besides the problem of the location itself, there have been many controversies related to the company behind the construction, the timing of their project proposal, and the limits on the public debate caused by the measures to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.

In spite of the positive conclusions of the feasibility study conducted by BGEP, local NGOs, citizens, and experts point out the negative impacts of the constructions. As a result of the building of the sHPPs, the water flow would drop way below the ecological minimum. However, the hydroecology of the river is already negatively impacted by the large HPP Jajce I, which has been in operation since 1957. Its capacity is 60 GWh and it takes all its water from the Great Pliva Lake. Unfortunately, even the current state (with no sHPPs) does not meet the minimum condition for self-sustainable development of the river’s flora and fauna. Besides the ecological aspect, the construction of the sHPPs would seriously diminish the cultural and tourism offer of Jajce.

This story seems similar to those of many other new sHPPs built in this area. Only in this case, there is a catch: the investors. The company behind the planned sHPPs, BGEP, was founded only in late 2019. It is registered in Sarajevo in the names of Abdurahman Pezo and Muhamed Šabić. The past of BGEP is unclear and there is little information about its activities prior to its effort to build the sHPPs in Jajce. During the negotiations, it turned out that the representative of the company is the father of Abdurahman. As local activists point out, he has already done business with Jajce's mayor, which makes the possible construction of the sHPPs even more controversial in the eyes of local activists.

What is more, the construction of the sHPPs comes at a time when the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced it would no longer provide financial support to similar projects because of their financial unsustainability. One representative of the WWF commented that “it is impossible to shake off the impression that this is an attempt at lightning-fast action to obtain the necessary permits for bad projects before the Government's decision takes effect”.

BGEP did indeed ignore the decision of the Government and submitted a request for the approval of the design and construction to the canton's ministry of agriculture. As the consent of the locals is needed for such a project, the ministry asked the Municipality of Jajce for approval and a public hearing was scheduled for mid-December 2020, in a limited form because of COVID-19.

From then on, the citizens began their struggle against the planned sHPPs. More than 30 local NGOs have united against the project, as have most of the citizens of Jajce. Samir Beharić, a representative of the local civil organizations, said that “[Thttps://zurnal.info/novost/23733/u-jajce-je-neko-doveo-firmu-koja-je-neprijatelj-gradanima">HIDROELEKTRANA U BLIZINI čUVENOG VODOPADA: "U Jajce je neko doveo firmu koja je neprijatelj građanima!"), the request of approval for the HPPs was temporarily withheld by the company as a result of the pressure and scrutiny it received.

Citizens of Jajceʼs online petition:

https://www.onlinepeticija.com/peticija_protiv_izgradnje_mhe_u_pijavicama_jajce_bih

Sources:

https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/mini-hidroelektrane-prijetnja-čuvenom-vodopadu-u-jajcu/30984162.html
https://www.facebook.com/VijestiizJajca/videos/217549729771332/
https://www.wwf.mg/en/?uNewsID=1436391
https://voda.ekoakcija.org/bs/mhe/mhe-pijavice
https://voda.ekoakcija.org/bs/mhe/mhe-elektrobosna
https://zurnal.info/novost/23733/u-jajce-je-neko-doveo-firmu-koja-je-neprijatelj-gradanima

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