Bosnia-Herzegovina: Environmental permit for Buk Bijela hydropower plant cancelled

30.5.2019 - BANJA LUKA

The Banja Luka District Court has canceled the environmental permit for the planned 93 MW Buk Bijela hydropower plant on the Drina river in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Aarhus Resource Center in Sarajevo has announced today, following the court's positive 13 May ruling on the Center's complaint.

A renewal of the earlier permit issued in 2013, the Republic of Srpska Ministry of Spatial Planning, Construction and Ecology in May 2018, after which the Aarhus Centar submitted its complaint in June 2018 regarding procedural deficiencies.

The investor, the state-owned Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske (ERS), had failed to request the renewal of the permit within the legally-defined deadline, meaning that the Ministry had been obliged to cancel the permit because of the construction of the not begun within four years of the initial permit being issued.

Likewise, no new public consultations were held in Bosnia-Herzegovina, or in Montenegro, even though the reservoir would stretch to the Montenegrin border, and such consultations are required by the Aarhus and Espoo Conventions. The initial 2012 consultations were poorly advertised, and civil society groups in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro were not taken into account.

The environmental assessment study claims that there would be no impact on the UNESCO-protected river Tara, without providing any evidence. Considering that the Tara is the main tributary of Drina and that reservoir would extend to the border of Montenegro, the effects of disrupting the movement of the species up and downstream are inevitable and need to be examined.

The Coalition for the Protection of Rivers in Bosnia-Herzegovina, of which the Aarhus Center is a member, said in a statement: "The Buk Bijela project has been in the 1970s because of its impact on the protected Tara Canyon in Montenegro, which It is a UNESCO World Heritage List and is part of the Durmitor National Park. The Drina is also the most important habitat of the endangered Danube Salmon, found only in some of the clean rivers in the Danube basin of southeast Europe. The area has also developed tourism based on rafting and fishing. The building of any kind of dam on the river would damage the quality of water, biodiversity and tourism.”

The Buk Bijela dam, the uppermost of numerous dams planned on Drina, is promoted by ERS, at an estimated cost of around 200 million euros. In July 2017, the memorandum was signed with China's State Aero-Technology International Engineering Corporation (AVIC-ENG), with the hope that the project would be financed by Chinese state banks.

“The Coalition for the Protection of Rivers in Bosnia-Herzegovina will continue its activities to counter plans for over 300 new hydropower plants planned on almost all our rivers. The Drina has a rich potential beyond the hydropower, and this is more obvious as the years pass. It is time to build models of development that will not harm nature or the people who live along the river. This powerful river deserves our attention, and we hope that in the end, the hydropower plants planned on the Drina will be canceled, " concludes the Coalition.

Bankwatch:  Bosnia-Herzegovina: Bijela hydropower plant canceled | 30/05/2019

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