‘River Keepers’ from BiH touring the Czech Republic

1.11.2018 - PRAGUE
Meeting of the Coalition for Protection of BiH Rivers in Gornja Pecka
PHOTO: Markéta Šedivá / Arnika

A group of activists from Bosnia-Herzegovina will travel through the Czech Republic next week to visit local cases of river protection. The five-day study tour will introduce them to local dam-free campaigns which include the Rivers Oslava, Bečva, Elbe, and others. This tour aims to provide support and insight for environmental initiatives in the Balkan country. Rivers all over the Southern European region are endangered by the recent hydropower boom.

Legal advisers, campaigners, eco-activists, biologists, and active protesters – six personages of the river protection movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ‘River Keepers’ (or Čuvari rijeka), as they are generally known as a result of a short documentary clip from 2016, will visit Czech hotspots thanks to the Transition Promotion Programme of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Some good examples of nature protection in the Czech Republic are worth pointing out and sharing across the borders, such as the successful campaign for saving the valley of the River Oslava,” remarks Zuzana Vachůnová, Arnika’s campaigner.

The 2015 project for the Čučice Pond in the Oslava Nature Park and the Oslava and Chvojnice Valley Nature Reserve (South Moravian Region) was cancelled as a result of voluble protests and a loud campaign by local people in December 2016.

At the same time, there are still several cases of insufficient river protection in the Czech Republic. For example, there has been an ongoing struggle for a dam-free River Bečva (Olomouc Region), and there is a conflict over the regulation of the Elbe (Ústí nad Labem Region) that has lasted for more than two decades.

All of those sites will be visited by the environmentalists between November 5th and 9th. The main goal of the study tour is to share experience in campaigning for river protection which can take many forms: addressing local government or responsible state bodies, creating a petition or even taking action, as did the people of the village of Kruščica. Maida Bilal and Enes Salkić, the key figures in the local NGO, will also participate in the study tour.

Rivers all over the Balkans are under considerable threat since there are almost 3,000 dams planned over the peninsula. “This unfortunate development will only harm our natural environment and the economy of our country and will bring nothing positive to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina; that’s why they are rising up against this dam boom,” says Jelena Brkić from the Center for the Environment (CZZS), and she adds, “Having the stories shared and learning from each others’ experience is the best thing for the inspiration of protectors of nature everywhere.”


 Monday  Prague: Coalition for Rivers Conference (CAMP, Vyšehradská 57, 128 00 Praha 2)

 Prague: Visiting the Czech Environmental Inspectorate – Water Department
 Děčín: Excursion to the canyon of the River Elbe: Campaign for conservation of the area protected as a Natural site

 Wednesday  Prague: Examples of river restoration
 Possible opportunity for media-related issues
 Thursday  Oslavany: The success of the ‘Save the Valley of the River Oslava’ grassroots campaign
 Friday  Hranice na Moravě: ‘Keep the River Bečva dam-free’ ongoing campaign
 Čehovice (Coalition for Rivers): Examples of revitalization projects



Goran Krivić (Coalition for Protection of BiH Rivers) - The key member of the Coalition for Sana who also became the coordinator of the Coalition for Rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a network of civil society organizations and individuals established in 2016 that seeks sustainable protection of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s last wild rivers.

Saudin Merdan - A biologist with expertise in zoology and ecology. He is one of the coordinators of research activities in the river protection campaign of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Maida Bilal and Enes Salkić (activists from Kruščica) - The coordinator of a local campaign and the representative of Eko Bistro Kruščica – an NGO formed by the end of last year with the help of Arnika and the Center for the Environment in order to stop two hydropower plant projects on the River Kruščica after a previous violent assault by special police on civilians in August 2017.

Lejla Arnaut (Aarhus Center Sarajevo) - Legal advisor and Director of the Aarhus Center Sarajevo which watches over the implementation and compliance of the Aarhus Convention on environmental democracy and provides legal support to local initiatives through the Coalition for Protection of BiH Rivers.

Jelena Brkić (Center for the Environment) - An expert on spatial planning working in the Center for Environment as the coordinator of the ‘Naš Prostor’ Initiative to empower and actively involve citizens in the process of the spatial-planning documentation development.


The Study Tour is held as a part of the 'Coalition for Rivers: Strengthening of Local Communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina' project of Arnika and Center for the Environment funded by the Transition Promotion Program of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.

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