Small victory of the Balkan village: the hydro-power plants permit cancelled

19.6.2018 - KRUŠČICA (BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA)
Women of Kruščica will not abandon their river yet
PHOTO: Markéta Šedivá / Arnika

A huge success was achieved within an anti-dam campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Two planned controversial hydro-power projects above the town of Vitez (Central Bosnia Canton) lost their environmental permits by the decision of the Cantonal Court. Despite this major positive shift, the case is not over. People aim for further achievements since the projects are still in plan, and the permits might be reassigned again.

After more than 300 days of fighting, activists from the village Kruščica reached one of their long-time goals. The cantonal tribunal in Novi Travnik issued a decision. They decided to cancel the environmental permits for two hydroelectric power plants projects on the Kruščica River. This decision made starting construction on the two planned dams illegal.

The verdict claims that citizens who would potentially be affected by the dams were not appropriately informed of the construction, and therefore, they could not attend the public hearing held on this matter. They were not even informed about the outcomes of the hearing. This violation of public participation in decision-making is the reason for cancelling necessary permits.

“The court's decision is groundbreaking. Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country with a low level of law enforcement, particularly related to the environmental rights and public participation in decision making. Therefore, halting the construction project because of a failure of an investor to organise a public hearing is uncommon. This verdict shall serve as a judicial precedent in similar cases and motivate other local communities to fight against illegal dams construction in the country,” says Martin Skalský, Arnika’s expert on public participation.

The fight must go on
As thrilling as this news for the local people is, they will not be abandoning the riverbank anytime soon. “Kruščica’s men and women have been squatting on the bridge over the river for almost a year and they plan to continue in their protest and keep protecting the river, for the final chapter of this story has not been written yet. Only then, when the stream is definitely free for danger, their watch be over,” describes Zuzana Vachůnová, Arnika’s coordinator of local campaigns.

Local people worry that the investor will try to obtain the needed permits again, or the investor may even try to start the construction without necessary documents as the ability of the state authorities to intervene against illegal activities is limited. With that in mind, they now aim for cancellation of concessions for the HPPs, issued by the government of Republika Srpska (the administrative unit of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and for the withdrawal of the projects from the spatial plan of the municipality. From this perspective, they have a long way to go. However, on August 2, Kruščica celebrated 365 days of an active river defending.

 


Further reading:
Year of the river keepers. People have been guarding for 365 days
Brave women from Kruščice won a lawsuit against dam construction!
Kruščica – extraordinary women fight for their river and change social norms
Fight for water: valuable Bosnian rivers are disappearing in concrete
Riot police forcibly remove residents defending river against hydropower

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