Representatives of the local community and environmentalist organizations expressed concern during a public debate that the draft environmental impact assessment study for the controversial Ugljevik 3 thermal power project is incomplete. They said the document doesn’t reveal the real potential damage and claimed it makes no sense to build the facility while coal phaseout dates are being determined in the region and Europe.
Agricultural producer Aleksandar Krstić from the village of Bogutovo Selo says the draft environmental impact assessment study for the planned coal power plant Ugljevik 3 doesn’t reveal the risk for locals, water sources and land, as quoted by the Center for Environment.
“There is no analysis whatsoever in the study of the thermal power plant’s entire negative effect on the residents of a small village, who would be cut off from the rest of the municipality, on top of risks for health, crops and forest and water resources. Also, so far we have seen mud slides and roads being damaged one year after another, but the investor and contractors haven’t repaired the damage,” he said in a public debate in the town of Ugljevik.
Institute for Protection and Ecology of the Republic of Srpska produced the document. The meeting was also attended by the representatives of the entity’s Ministry of Physical Planning, Civil Engineering and Ecology, Center for Environment, the local community and Comsar Energy, the investor. Bosnia and Herzegovina’s other entity is called the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Call to neighboring states to react to Ugljevik 3 project
“Many parameters show the project for the construction of thermal power plant Ugljevik makes no sense, and the new environmental impact study again doesn’t provide the answers to the questions about the real negative effect of the thermal power plant. We are already very critical of the document itself and this way we are calling on other organizations in BiH and neighboring countries, in the context of cross-border consultations, to react and send their comments,” said Majda Ibraković from the Center for Environment, based in Banjaluka.
The organization noted the construction of the said thermal power plant is being discussed a whole decade after the letter of intent and in a moment when many countries in the region and Europe are discussing deadlines for the closure of coal plants.
Ibraković underscored the proposed lifespan, longer than 40 years, is not in line with the Sofia Declaration and the obligations to decarbonize the economy by 2050. The first environmental assessment process was halted in 2018 because of the many omissions and procedural errors that the Center for Environment pointed to, the organization’s statement reads.
The public debate process is scheduled to end on September 14.
Study lists all necessary measures to cut pollutant emissions
The study’s authors wrote the impact would be “minimal” if all proposed measures are implemented. According to the document, filters and equipment for desulfurization and reduction of nitrogen oxide emissions would be installed. The dust content in flue gas will eventually be ten miligrams per cubic meter, they claimed. The project includes wastewater treatment and water reuse.
Siemens is supposed to deliver the two turbines of 350 MW each. Ugljevik 3 would span 27 hectares next to an existing thermal power plant, owned by state-owned power utility Elektroprivreda Republike Srpske (ERS). The investment is valued at EUR 613 million.
Of note, ERS’s thermal power plant Ugljevik installed a desulfurization unit, but it hasn’t entered regular operation yet.
The facility would use coal from nearby open pits Ugljevik istok 2 and Delići and it would consume 4.17 to 4.32 million tons per year. It would employ 300 people.
Harmful, expensive technology
The Municipality of Ugljevik warned two years ago of the threat of environmental degradation and pointed out local population would need to be resettled, that the thermal power plant would change the terrain morphology, landscape, climate factors and hydrological regime, and that it would put the flora and fauna and human health in jeopardy.
“There are several reasons for our traditional, conservative and almost sentimental connection to coal, and among them I would first and foremost mention the lack of political will and ambition for any kind of change that implies concrete and strategic planning and investment. Unfortunately, for our politicians, and for some in the energy lobby, coal is still our most important resource, even though it is perfectly clear that it is a dirty, harmful, unhealthy and all and all expensive technology – all the way from exploitation to burning in thermal power plants. It must be stressed the coal sector here is at the same time a big voting machinery, draged into different social, economic, legal, environmental and other malversations, supported by strong lobbies. If countries such as Germany or Poland (or North Macedonia and Greece in the region), which have long mining traditions, can change their systems in line with current developments, why can’t we?” Majda Ibraković told Buka earlier.
Two previously unknown firms from China and Poland signed a construction agreement two months ago, and Comsar Energy is reportedly negotiating a takeover. The Government of the Republic of Srpska extended the concession signed in 2013. to 44 from 30 years even though the company breached its deadlines.