“We are sending a message to the relevant institutions that the springs as the heart of the Sana River should be protected and proclaimed a monument of nature, despite the shamefully built hydroelectric power plant Medna, which will be remembered as one of the biggest failures and crimes against nature and people,” claims the statement of the Coalition for Sana presented during this year’s protest by the Sana springs in Mrkonjić Grad region.
Today, on June 5th not only the World Environment Day is being celebrated all over the globe. For the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina it’s also the Sana River Day.
Foreign investor with private interest
Activists from Coalition for Sana, Coalition for the protection of the rivers of the BiH and the Czech NGO Arnika also visited the recently finished HPP Medna of Austrian energy company Kelag. The so-called ‘derivative’ HPP deflects vast volume of water to over two kilometres distant turbine, producing not more than 5 MW and leaving the former riverbed almost dry.
As a result, several dead fish, European bullhead (Cottus gobio), were found on the bank on Sunday. The decreased river flow does not provide enough water necessary for the survival of living organisms, not even in the seasons with expected higher water levels. People from neighbouring villages have lost their source of water, despite their almost decade-lasting protests.
The Sana river. Living, wild and free, now far from it. "Before-after" photos don't usually look this sad. (PHOTO: Centre for the Environment)
“Also, the damages from the mere HPP construction on surrounding nature are far beyond calculable,” pities Zuzana Vachunova from Arnika. “The whole area is magical and with great potential for attracting tourist, thus helping the financially struggling country and its people,” she adds.
The catch is the legislation
According to Viktor Bjelić from Banja Luka based Centre for Environment, “the Sana River springs will never be safe, until the area gets some sort of legal protection." When or whether this might actually happen is not clear for the legislative system of Bosnia and Herzegovina is extraordinarily complicated. Also, the general election scheduled to October this year are to be bore in mind.
Although HPPs are being often considered and presented as a nature-friendly solution, the reality in the Balkans is different. The plan of building up to 300 dams in Bosnia and Herzegovina and even ten times more in the whole peninsula might cause serious water shortages for the whole region. “Medna HPP is an example of a terrible failure in nature protection. We must defend the Sana river and all the others from being dammed this way in the future,” Skalsky concludes.