River Keepers require minimal flow regulations

27.9.2019 - SARAJEVO

Coalition for protection of rivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina calls on the competent agencies, institutions, ministries and experts of biological and hydrological sciences to devote as quickly as possible to solving the problem of environmentally friendly flow in BiH, to carry out the necessary research and analysis, and to develop the Rulebook on environmentally friendly flow that will be applicable. This is a message sent by activists of Coalition from a peaceful gathering held today at Trg Oslobođenja in Sarajevo on the occasion of World River Day, which is celebrated on the last Sunday in September.

According to the Coalition, over-abstraction of water for electricity production at hydropower facilities jeopardizes the provision of environmentally friendly flow, or minimum flow, which ensures the conservation of natural balance and ecosystems related to water.

The Rulebook on the Method of Determining Minimal Flow has been adopted in the Federation of BiH, while the Republic of Srpska does not yet have one. The initiative of the Center for environment and the Czech environmental organizations Arnika, who in cooperation with experts drafted a methodology and a draft proposal of this Rulebook, were also rejected. The RS Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management did not accept the initiative with an explanation that there is a lack of validation of the research methodology. Such research is time-consuming, demanding and expensive and impossible to conduct for civil society organizations. They are under the jurisdiction of the Sava River Basin District Agency and the Adriatic Sea River Basin District in the FBiH and the public institution “Vode Srpske” in the Republic of Srpska.

“We from civil society see a problem that we cannot solve on our own, but we can contribute. To the best of our ability, we are ready to organize a new round of consultations, but we expect the institutions to devote all necessary resources, take the initiative and fulfill the obligations arising from their competences, the Law on Water and obligations towards the European Union,” said Miloš Orlić, Coordinator of the Coalition for protection of rivers in BiH.

The gathering in Sarajevo is part of the campaign “River Keepers” implemented through the Eko BiH project funded by the European Union and co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic through the Transition program. As a part of this campaign, Coalition organized an action in August to collect photographs of dry riverbeds countrywide caused by hydropower plants built.

“Hundreds of people participated in the campaign and sent us photos of the dry riverbeds, which were further shared and commented on social media. This speaks both to the importance of the connection people feel towards their rivers and to the great problem that the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina has in the absence of regulations on minimal flow. Where some see a wild and beautiful river, others see the money. The rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina are being destroyed by the massive construction of hydropower plants without any monitoring. That is why it is necessary to regulate this area as soon as possible,” said Zuzana Vachunova from the Czech organization Arnika.

Eko BIH Project Coordinator Viktor Bjelić points out that the establishment of monitoring would greatly reduce the arbitrariness and arrogant behavior of a large number of hydropower plants that for-profit makes merciless exploitation of natural resources through excessive water abstraction, irreversibly destroying the rivers and biodiversity of BiH.

The needs of the local population as water users, which are often neglected, should not be forgotten, Bjelić concludes.

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