The construction permit for small hydropower plant Zvonce in the village of Rakita in Serbia is “a collection of heavy crimes,” according to Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta from the Defend the Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina movement. He says activists would organize a protest if the government doesn’t annul the license by March 7.
Almost three months after the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure of Serbia initiated the procedure to withdraw the construction permit for the small hydropower plant in Rakita, activists from Defend the Rivers of Mt. Stara Planina – ORSP said it would hold a protest in Belgrade if it doesn’t happen by Sunday, March 7. The organization’s representative Aleksandar Jovanović Ćuta noted that the Municipality of Babušnica made a commitment in early February to react, but he said there was no progress so far.
“The construction permit for SHPP Zvonce in Rakita is a collection of heavy crimes and the subject of dozens of court cases. Everyone who participated in it and signed any document is now in fear. Rakita is a symbol. If this permit falls, so will the other elements of the criminal enterprise of diverting rivers into pipes,” he told Balkan Green Energy News.
Environmentalists joined the population of the isolated village in Serbia’s southeast in 2017 in opposing the construction of the small hydropower plant, after UniCredit Bank approved a EUR 1.2 million mortgage to investor Goran Belić and accepted the Rakitska river as collateral, Jovanović said.
The investor has managed to get a mortgage worth EUR 1.2 million with the Rakitska river as collateral
In the meantime, authorities forbade the project firm from continuing with the works and instructed it to remove the pipes and return the site to the previous condition, but the company failed to comply. A group of activists independently damaged the pipes in August. During the four-year struggle, villagers and environmentalists were charged with dozens of misdemeanors.
Who enforces law
“If there is no one to enforce the law, the citizens will take into their own hands in Rakita, where the investor is directly jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of the locals, and everywhere else that is needed. If anyone tries to repair the pipes, we will prevent it,” Jovanović stressed.
He said the Municipality of Babušnica hasn’t done anything since the meeting with the informal group of citizens last month. At the time, Municipality President Ivana Stojičić and other officials said in a joint statement that they would initiate the procedure to erase all locations from the local spatial plan that were intended for the SHPPs for which permits have expired and that they would urge the responsible ministries to implement their decisions.
The movement recently said it learned that the small hydropower plant would be allowed to connect to the electricity grid.