Kayakers tour Balkans to protest dam tsunami
After more than 60 kayakers took to Slovenia’s Lake Bohinj on April 16 to kick off a 35-day environmental protest over plans to build dams on rivers in six Balkan countries, the colourful flotilla reached Sana river in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Environmentalist group Save the Blue Heart of Europe reported on its website the group is led by Slovenian Olympic rower Rok Rozman. The “Stop the dam tsunami!” movement aims at raising awareness of the impact of dam building on the region’s waterways. According to the group’s website, there are plans for more than 2,700 Balkan dam projects in the coming years, including 113 dams scheduled for construction inside the region’s national parks.
An international alliance of 200 kayakers, anglers, residents and nature conservationists from the Balkan Rivers Tour protested on the Sana against hydropower plant Medna, which is under construction. The developer is Austrian-German energy company Kelag. The Sana is one of the last remaining rivers in Europe that host healthy populations of the Huchen (Hucho hucho), a species that is globally threatened and popular amongst anglers. “We won’t give up the Sana and our fight against Kelag,” says Nataša Crnković from the Center for Environment – an organisation that has tried to prevent this project for seven years together with 22 more organisations that form the Coalition for Sana.
People from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Italy and Croatia participated in the protest action. Numerous local residents were also present. “Ninety nine percent of residents oppose the Kelag project, however we were never asked,” says Ljubomir Lisica, an affected local resident of the Sana. In a previously untouched valley of the Sana, Medna project is said to divert 90% of water into pipelines in order to produce energy further downstream. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) study stressed the project’s severe effects on nature and landscape.