People sang and danced, greedy investors aren't welcome, says environmentalist on canceled HPPs

31.3.2019 - KRUŠČICA
The joy of Kruščica villagers and environmentalists from Banja Luka
PHOTO: Markéta Šedivá / Arnika

A massive breakthrough in one of the closely monitored cases of hydropower plant boom in Bosnia-Herzegovina took place in December. The cantonal court in Novi Travnik complied with the objections of the villagers from Kruščica (Central Bosnia Canton) and canceled all remaining necessary permits for the two planned dams on the wild river. The locals have achieved a rare success, which slowly transforms the perception of civil activism, says Jelena Ivanić of the Center for the Environment from Banja Luka. "Change is possible. It's important to be united, brave and persistent," she explains.

Meet the River Keepers from Kruščica through photographs by Markéta Šedivá.


How did residents of Kruščica received the good news?
People are extremely happy of course. They celebrate in their manner with songs and traditional dance. They are glad to see some shift forward and they are grateful to all civil society organizations, individuals and media who helped them to fight for their river. Even though they are aware that case is not fully over yet, this is one huge step forward.

What does the court's verdict mean for them after many months of resistance?
It is mainly a satisfaction, finally they can go home and return to their normal life after they guarded the access bridge 24 hours a day in order to prevent construction.

You mentioned that the case is not closed yet. What is the current situation in Kruščica then?
All permits for both projects are now cancelled. But investors may file an appeal against the verdict and they can strive for new permits. However, this time they would be kept an eye on in terms of transparency – they would have to comunicate with all interested parties, in the first place with the local community, and involve them in the process from the beginning.

So Kruščica river is not safe from hydropower construstion for now?
Not yet, I think that soon it will be. Alongide with stopping the current projects, this is going to be strong message to other investors to bear in mind that they are not welcome there.

Can you outguess what can we expect in Kruščica, what will be the closest development?
We all keep our eyes opened and wait for the final outcome of the civil proceedings related to concessions. We hope it will be in our favour and that concessions will be cancelled for good.

How did the life of the locals changed beside the blocade itself?
Kruscica residents are now more interested in public affairs. They realised that they have rights and possibilities in terms of infrastructure development to improve the live quality. Their dream is to revive touristic potentials of the area as it was in former Republic (Yugoslavia). Local community board is very active as well as local environmental association “Bistro” which was established last year during the protests.

Kruščica is not the first to succeed, but similar happy-ends to such cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina are very rare. How important is it for other similar disputes? Might it be some kind of a precedent or as a promotion of environmental activism?
The story of Kruščica has been covered by media significantly. Surely, it will encourage other activists to stand up for their rivers and to see that change is possible. It is important to be united, brave and persistent and to be able to recognize and to overcome different obstacles that stand in a way. This case is already motivating other groups and sometimes Kruščica people support these groups in protests or advisory issues.

 

Jelena-Ivanic-2b

 
Jelena Ivanić was born in 1987 in Novi Grad.
She studied ecology and environmental protection at the University of Banja Luka.
She has been volunteering for a long time, organizing awareness seminars
and youth education on environmental issues.
In the Center for the Environment, she focuses with energy and climate change.

 

Read more:
Kruščica celebrates! The cantonal court cancelled permits for two planned hydropower plants
Kruščica residents against ‘illegal HPPs’ gathered for a quiet protest in Travnik
Europe's Toxic Air to be Discussed at a Unique International Conference in the Czech Republic
Year of the river keepers. People have been guarding for 365 days
Small victory of the Balkan village: the hydro-power plants permit cancelled
Kruščica – extraordinary women fight for their river and change social norms
Riot police forcibly remove residents defending river against hydropower

International activities