Despite the lockdowns in the region caused by the coronavirus, the construction of five small hydropower plants (SHPPs) has begun or is being pushed in the south of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s capital Sarajevo, according to a joint press release by the Coalition for the Protection of Rivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Riverwatch and EuroNatur. In some cases, they say, investors don’t have permits to build the dams.
It seems investors in the Balkans have ideas similar to those of the lobbyists in Brussels, who haven’t wasted any time in pursuing big business interests.
The corona crisis is a threat to the Blue Heart of Europe – the unique Balkan rivers, the NGOs said and asserted that investors are increasingly taking advantage of the situation to build controversial hydropower projects in secret.
The construction sites in question are on the rivers Bjelava, Mala Bjelava, Vrhovinska, Željeznica and Prača. Most are almost untouched and all are exceptionally beautiful, the message underscores.
The construction of a hydropower plant on the Vrhovinska river is illegal, environmentalists claim
The construction of the hydropower plant on the Vrhovinska river is illegal as no permits have been issued for its construction, environmentalists claimed, citing unnamed sources.
In addition, works are conducted without the legally required building supervision, as inspectors are absent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the organizations added.
Moratorium sought for the construction of SHPPs
The Coalition for the Protection of Rivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign call on prime ministers and presidents of the entities making up BiH to stop the activity and urgently impose a moratorium on the construction of SHPPs as well as on new concessions.
Redžib Skomorac of the NGO Center for Environment
The state of emergency should not be an excuse for the exploitation of public resources, but rather an occasion for solidarity and sensible use of our resources.
Ulrich Eichelmann of Riverwatch, coordinator of the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign, said investors are taking advantage of a unique opportunity to avoid inspections or any protests that residents and environmental organizations would hold.
Anes Podić from NGO Eko Akcija
We call for more rigorous prevention and tougher penalties to prevent unjust enrichment, criminal behaviour and usurious opportunism, i.e. to ensure that the competent authorities comply with the law, constitutional and moral principles.
“We are not talking about just any streams and rivers, but about the most unique and so far largely untouched watercourses,” says Eichelmann.