A group of activists from Bosnia-Herzegovina will travel through the country next week, visiting local cases of river protection. The five-day study tour will introduce them to local dam-free campaigns, including, among others, the ones of the Rivers Oslava, Bečva and Elbe, in order to support environmental initiatives in the Balkan country. Rivers all over the Southern European region are endangered by the recent hydropower boom.
Legal adviser, campaigner, eco-activist, biologist and active protesters – six personages of the river protection movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The ‘River Keepers’ (or Čuvari rijeka), as they are generally known as a result of a short documentary clip from 2016, will visit Czech hotspots thanks to the Transition Promotion Programme of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“Some good examples of nature protection in the Czech Republic are worth pointing out and sharing across the borders, such as the successful campaign for saving the valley of the River Oslava,” remarks Zuzana Vachůnová, Arnika’s campaigner.
The 2015 project for the Čučice Pond in the Oslava Nature Park and the Oslava and Chvojnice Valley Nature Reserve (South Moravian Region) was cancelled as a result of voluble protests and a loud campaign by local people in December 2016.
At the same time, there are still several cases of insufficient river protection in the Czech Republic, for example the ongoing struggle for a dam-free River Bečva (Olomouc Region) or the conflict over the regulation of the Elbe (Ústí nad Labem Region) that has lasted for over two decades.
All of those sites will be visited by the environmentalists between November 5th and 9th. The main goal of the study tour is to share experience in campaigning for river protection, which can take many forms – including addressing local government or responsible state bodies, creating a petition or even taking action, as did the people of the village of Kruščica, from which Maida Bilal and Enes Salkić, the key figures in the local NGO, will also participate in the study tour.
Rivers all over the Balkans are under considerable threat since there are almost 3,000 dams planned over the peninsula. “This unfortunate development will only harm our natural environment and the economy of our country and will bring nothing positive to the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina; that’s why they are rising up against this dam boom,” says Jelena Brkić from the Center for the Environment (CZZS), and she adds: “Having the stories shared and learning from each others’ experience is the best thing for the inspiration of protectors of nature everywhere.”