Non-governmental organizations have filed or drafted lawsuits against the competent ministries in the Federation of BiH and the Republic of Srpska, the entities comprising Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), for non-compliance with law in the procedure of approving the construction of five small hydropower plants (SHPPs).
BiH also made news a few weeks ago when, despite the lockdowns in the region caused by the coronavirus, the construction of five SHPPs started.
Now the Center for Environment, the Aarhus Center Sarajevo, and Konjic-based environmental protection association Zeleni Neretva are suing against the decision of the Federal Ministry of Environment and Tourism to renew environmental permits for the construction of SHPP Srijanski most and SHPP Gorovnik ušće on the Neretvica river.
The investor is power utility Elektroprivreda BiH (EPBiH).
The locals prevented the start of construction on the Neretvica river
According to the Center for Environment, locals have also opposed the projects, and a few days ago they prevented the installation of an information board about the construction works on the Neretvica river. The similar situation occurred recently near the town of Foča.
Public participation in decision-making is disabled
The Federal Ministry of Environment and Tourism issued renewed environmental permits to the investor, and in both cases prevented public participation, which is against the law on environmental protection of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH).
The institute of ‘renewed environmental permit’ is unknown in the law, which is why the three organizations believe the ministry violated it, said Nina Kreševljaković, legal advisor to the Aarhus centers in BiH.
The federal ministry did not inform the local population about the new procedure
Amir Variščić, president of the Green Neretva association from Konjic, confirmed both lawsuits would be filed very quickly.
The association is an interested party in the procedure because in 2010 it submitted remarks to the ministry on the environmental impact study of an SHPPs in the Neretvica river basin, he said.
However, the ministry did not inform it nor the local population about the new procedure.
EPBiH: Company wants to find a solution together with the local community
Two SHPPs with a capacity of 6.4 MW are the first phase of the project on the Neretvica river which envisages the construction of 15 power plants of 24.5 MW in total. The project is part of EPBiH’s capital investment plan.
In a recent interview with Oslobođenje, Admir Andelija, acting director-general of EPBiH, said the company expects the start of construction of SHPPs in the Neretvica basin to begin soon.
The project for SHPPs on the Neretvica river is part of EPBiH’s capital investment plan
He claimed the company is especially eager to finally start the construction of HPP Ustikolina on the Drina river. Andelija added the utility is also to trying to find a solution for the construction of SHPPs on the upper course of the Neretva river as it is discussing the matter with the FBiH government and the local community.
A lawsuit against the decision for the HES Gornja Neretva project phase 1
The Center for Environment has also filed a complaint against the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and Ecology of the Republic of Srpska. According to its decision, MHE Marvel d.o.o. Kalinovik isn’t obligated to conduct an impact assessment and obtain a new environmental impact study for the HES Gornja Neretva phase 1 project.
It envisages the construction of three SHPPs – Grebenac Ušće, Mjedenik and Igaščica on the rivers Neretva and Igaščica, in the Gacko municipality.
The ministry has instructed the investor eight years ago to prepare an environmental impact study, and in the meantime it has expired, so the investor was supposed to prepare a new one, the center revealed.
The HES Gornja Neretva phase 2 project includes four additional SHPPs – Grebenac-Krupac, Trnovica, Plačikus and Uloški buk.