Electricity

Court annuls environmental permit for Drina hydropower project

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Photo: fotos1992 from Pixabay

Published

May 2, 2024

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Published:

May 2, 2024

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The project to build large hydropower plants on the Drina river is facing fresh delays, after the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina annulled the environmental permit for hydropower plant (HPP) Foča. The permitting process was challenged by non-governmental organization Aarhus Centre in BiH.

On April 24, Aarhus received the ruling of the Constitutional Court of BiH, which accepted its complaint. The complaint was previously rejected by the district court in Banja Luka and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Srpska, one of the two political entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The complaint, which cited procedural shortcomings of the decision to renew the environmental permit, was filed in 2018.

The construction of any dam on the Drina would seriously jeopardize its water quality, biodiversity, and tourism, according to Aarhus. Also, the NGO claims, it is difficult to rule out potential impacts of these large hydropower plants on the canyon of the Tara river in Montenegro.

The construction of HPP Foča and HPP Buk Bijela, as well as the third planned power plant on the Drina, HPP Paunci, is a joint project of the Republic of Srpska and neighboring Serbia.

The permitting process for HPP Foča has been “reset to the beginning,” and the same is expected for HPP Buk Bijela

With the court’s decision, the whole process of issuing a permit for HPP Foča has been “reset to the beginning,” claims Nataša Kovačević from CEE Bankwatch Network. The same is expected for HPP Buk Bijela, given that both environmental permits are part of a single cross-border process of public participation, which in the case of HPP Foča was deemed legally deficient, according to Kovačević.

As for HPP Buk Bijela, its construction is disputed on environmental grounds by neighboring Montenegro, environmental organizations in BiH and Montenegro, but also by the Federation of BiH, the other entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Federation of BiH claims that the Republic of Srpska as an entity has no authority to unilaterally decide on building hydropower plants on the Drina.

Last July, BiH and Montenegro set up a joint working group to address problems related to the Buk Bijela HPP project. A couple of weeks later, the Republic of Srpska announced it would conduct an additional environmental study to assess the hydropower plant’s potential impact on the Durmitor national park in Montenegro, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Serbia has completed preparatory works for HPP Buk Bijela

A groundbreaking ceremony for HPP Buk Bijela was held in May 2021. In March this year, Serbian Minister of Mining and Energy Dubravka Đedović Handanović said that Serbia, the majority owner of the project, had completed the preparatory works. All that remains is to complete the environmental impact assessment studies and select the main contractor, she added.

“The capacity of this hydroelectric plant is 114 MW, and the project is justified both in terms of energy and commercially,” said Đedović Handanović.

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