Ensara Hodžić, together with her parents, sisters, and brother, has been living in Kaćuni, near Busovača, for 20 years. Their home is located next to the bed of the Kozica River, which flows through this place, beautifies it, and gives it life. It is a river that has beautified many summers for Ensara and all the other people that live on its banks. The Hodžić family have fought all their lives against the disposal of waste in the Kozica River, and Ensara’s father cleared the medical waste disposal site on its bank and turned it into an orchard. But their fight for the river did not stop there… This is their story.
All alone in the fight for (basic) rights
“Two small hydropower plants have already been built on the Kozica River in the area belonging to the municipality of Fojnica. In 2014 my father was invited to a session of the local community of Kaćuni about the issue of granting approval for the construction of a small hydropower plant, where he was the only one present who did not give his consent to the construction of the hydropower plant. The other members of the working group representing our local community gave their signatures and consent because at the session it was stated that the investor would help the local community to introduce public lighting, pay for electricity for the community, and repair part of the road, which the municipality of Busovača and the Central Bosnia Canton (SBK) guaranteed. The investor of the project is Amer Jerlagić, publicly known as the former president of the electric power company, and one of the candidates for the presidency of BiH,” is how Ensara Hodžić begins the story. She continues:
“From that day on my father spoke personally to the mayor of our community, who always guaranteed that he would be with him and that he would not allow a construction site near our family home. However, at a public tender on February 4, 2015, it was announced that the plant would be built. The project envisaged the construction of a powerhouse and installed capacity of 550kW less than 10 metres from our house. Since we could not expect support from the local population because they were previously convinced that this project would bring more benefits than damage, which is absolutely incorrect and unfounded, my father hired a lawyer to protect our rights, the basic rights for life. He sent letters to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Management, and Forestry of the Central Bosnia Canton and the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Construction, Environmental Protection, Return and Housing Affairs and, of course, to the community mayor, Asim Mekić, in writing and numerous times also verbally. Because of this situation, it was clear that we could not ask for a complete dismissal of the project, nor stop the already-mentioned “development” of the local community, and our demands as conscientious citizens were that the powerhouse should be moved 100 metres above or below our yard. From the ministries I have mentioned, the only person who saw this case realistically and rationally and stood on our side to protect us was Minister Lejla Salkić. One year after this, in 2016, the planning permission was given by Amer Mrako, Minister of Spatial Planning, Construction, Environmental Protection, Return and Housing Affairs. Then my father spoke again to the mayor, who gave him his word and guaranteed that the next permit, the building permit, would not be issued until our demands were met.”
Two years passed after this consent was given. In November 2018, the decision on the approval for construction was sent to the address of the Hodžić family, together with the relevant building permit, also signed by Minister Amer Mrako.
“My neighbour is more important than an investor”
“In those days, it was very difficult to do anything reasonably and to think positively, with the constant question, “Is this really happening and is this really possible?” In order to go ahead without stopping in this fight, we were inspired by the Women of Kruščica, and a group of people who won and fought for the Željeznica River in Fojnica,” emphasizes Ensara.
Asim Mekić is the mayor of the Busovača Municipality and President of the SDA Cantonal Committee. After this permit, Mekić guaranteed that nothing would be built until their issue was resolved. However, in July 2018, measurements started across the road outside their house, and construction of the above-mentioned powerhouse began…
“My father addressed the Mayor that morning and made a phone call to Amer Jerlagić, who replied to him in one sentence: “Everything is according to the law.” As the oldest child, I decided to participate actively in this fight and protect my father from people like this who have destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of people for the sake of their interests.”
The Hodžić family first contacted the women of Kruščica to consult with them what to do and how to proceed. A lawyer, Bruno Božić, who is involved in the legal struggle against the destruction of many of the rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is also involved in the case.
“He started lawsuits against the licences and decisions of the ministries mentioned at the Cantonal Court of Travnik, and each one of them was rejected. In the meantime, the works started.” emphasizes Ensara.
The case was also handed over to the Ombudsman for Human Rights, and besides the support of Lejla Salkić, the family is being supported by the Center for Environment and several neighbours who are aware of this case.
“When the works started, we managed to maintain the peace next to our house until the time when the machines came to the rock that stretches across the entire area and below the foundations of our house. After our house was damaged during the mining of the rocks, we went to inspect. Because of the enormous vibrations and noise that occurred during the destruction of the rock, the works were stopped. We expected all of this, and because of this, my father refused to sign the agreement for the powerhouse to be built in that place from the beginning. Our case has been handed over to the Supreme Court, and we do not intend to give up this fight. The works were stopped, because the contractors are our neighbours, and people who decided to respect my father with the words ‘the neighbour is more important than the investor’. And the investor, along with the mayor and the institutions I have already mentioned, obviously do not respect anything other than the paper called money that governs their lives,” Ensara points out.
“I am continuing this fight, because this is my country too!”
“Throughout this story, my sisters, my brother, and I will remember our father’s words, which he repeated many times in the most difficult moments: “Children, go away from here, go far, go and do not come back, this is chaos!”
I am writing this story, I am continuing this fight, because this is my country, because there are laws that work for us too, that work for nature and these laws always win.
Five years of life under stress, in order to defend the basic human right to live!
And how important are human lives for them? The offers will tell you, the offers we received all these years from the investor: a workplace for my father, scholarships, upgrading the house, for example, they offered us to change carpentry in the whole house , etc., etc. Absurdity upon absurdity! Because of these absurdities and systems of distorted values, thousands of people have left this beautiful country, and after all, me and my sisters and brother, we will listen to our father, we will go somewhere where laws are made to protect everyone, not just the people who made the law. And here…? The river will stop. Life will stop here.
This is our story, this is our fight. I write it, because I know how many rivers in this country they are planning to destroy here in the Balkans.
I am writing because it does not have to be destroyed; it can be stopped! Do not allow life to stop in your place! Stand up and say: “I am not giving up my river!” Do not give up, stop it, you matter, your voice is valid, and we all owe it to nature.
Because, in some places people are not afraid and do not consider themselves to be pawns, but as a pillar and the basis of a healthy society. Somewhere over there, and it can be the same here too!
My parents will, hopefully, have a quiet life and a peaceful morning after all, even if I have to go to the international courts with this story and case. The good always wins. And the local community replaced the river that brought life into this valley with a piece of asphalt. It sounds terrible, and what it will be like is something I leave to those who will obviously open their eyes only then…”