NOVI TRAVNIK – The inhabitants of the Bosnia and Herzegovina village of Kruščica have succeeded with their lawsuits against two planned hydropower plants. The cantonal court of Novi Travnik upheld their objections against construction and urban permits (1). The locals have been actively demonstrating against the hydro power plants for almost 16 months, drawing the attention of European media (2). The controversial projects would bring significant damage to the surrounding natural environment and the source of drinking water.
It is a breakthrough decision for all the 810 villagers of Kruščica. Represented by a lawyer, they initiated an administrative dispute against the renewal of the urban and construction permits for the small hydropower plants Kruščica 1 and Kruščica 2 as they were not adequately informed and involved in the previous decision-making procedures.
“We are happy finally to see some shift towards improvement and truly grateful to all organizations and good people for their support. At the moment, we are the proudest community in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” stated Amela Zukan, one of the ‘brave women of Kruščica’ (3).
Together, the people sued the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction, Environmental Protection, Return, and Housing of the Central Bosnia Canton, which, in repeated proceedings, did not take into consideration the citizens’ opinions and renewed these approvals. The court ruled a positive verdict on all four claims on Friday last week.
Viktor Bjelić from the Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina claims that “this decision of the Cantonal Court is the only possible outcome since the Ministry has not renewed the disputed decisions in the light of proper and fully-established facts. This decision gives the power to the inhabitants of Kruščica to insist on their demands and persist until the termination of the concession contracts for both hydropower plants takes place,” says the environmentalist from Banja Luka.
“I was excited to receive the news. The locals are already very tired. To prevent the construction, they were blocking the bridge across the Kruščica River day and night. Women kept guard during the day, men at night, and the whole village was involved. It has been extremely demanding for all of them,” says Zuzana Vachůnová from the Czech NGO Arnika who has followed the Kruščica case from the beginning.
Today, organizations and individuals from the Coalition for the Protection of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Rivers are celebrating the victory for ‘the battle of Kruščica’. Also, they welcome the recent resolution of the European Parliament which highlights the environmental risks of the construction of small hydropower plants and emphasizes that they are in opposition to the European Union’s environmental standards.