The House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina must ban the construction of small hydropower plants before the elections or the initiative may fail, environmental activist Anes Podić said.
The lower chamber of the Parliament of the Federation of BiH voted almost unanimously for the amendments to the Law on Electricity. With 65 members in favor, no one against and just one abstained, the House of Representatives enabled the ban on the construction of small hydropower plants with up to 10 MW in capacity.
The only exception is for the installations on vertical drinking water supply pipes. The bill was passed to the House of Peoples for one last vote that could make the initiative of thousands of environmentalists and citizens a reality.
On the other hand, the law would enable concessionaires that have filed for energy permits to complete the documentation within three years, which means hundreds of small hydropower plants could still be built in Bosnia and Herzegovina. In parallel, environmentalists are calling on the authorities to impose a moratorium.
Ban proposal has been sitting in Parliament of FBiH for two years
The decade-long struggle was formally articulated on the highest level in June 2020. That’s when the House of Representatives adopted a declaration on the protection of rivers and initiated a review of existing permits and concessions for small hydropower plants and ongoing projects.
The bill still enables concessionaires to complete the documentation within three years
FBiH is the larger of the two entities making up BiH and the other one is the Republic of Srpska. Its parliament adopted the declaration in February 2021 but the process has been stuck since.
Our rivers have been destroyed
“The attack on our rivers hasn’t stopped at all,” Anes Podić from the Coalition for the Protection of Rivers in BiH told legislators in Sarajevo before the latest vote and pointed to several ongoing projects and ones under construction. He warned that the upper house must adopt the bill before the October 2 election or that otherwise it could drag on for years to come.
The coalition was part of a group of nongovernmental organizations that issued the Declaration on the Protection of the Western Balkans Rivers in 2019. The bill in the Parliament of FBiH includes the recommendations from the document.
Podić: Small hydropower plants are the result of the intention to satisfy investors
“The construction of small hydropower plants led to the exact opposite of what the law envisages. Our rivers and their exceptionally valuable wildlife have been destroyed. With regard to small hydropower plants and the generation of electricity, it is important to say that they are not the result of any strategic needs for electricity, but primarily the intention to satisfy the investors who made them an excellent business,” Podić stressed.
He pointed to data that showed a total of 116 small hydroelectric units produced 433 MWh last year in BiH or 2.5% of the country’s power output. According to Podić, their combined projected result, based on which they got permits, is 710 MWh. He underscored that hydrological conditions were exceptionally favorable in 2021.
Turning to the hundreds of projects that remain, he claimed small hydropower plants already occupy the most appropriate locations in terms of production, and that further plans would leave no creek in BiH without such a facility.