On January 28 this year, the District Court in Banja Luka issued a positive verdict for the defense of the rivers Neretva and Igaščica, which accepted the lawsuit filed by the Center for the Environment prepared in cooperation with the Aarhus Center in BiH. The court annulled the disputed decision of the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Construction and Ecology of the RS, by which the holder of the project of the Small Hydro Power Plant “Marvel” d.o.o. Kalinovik released from the obligation to prepare an Environmental Impact Study for the Hydropower System (HES) “Gornja Neretva” Phase I, which includes the construction of SHPP Grebenac Usce, SHPP Mjedenik and SHPP Igrašica on the rivers Neretva and Igaščica in the municipality of Gacko.
This verdict means that the Ministry will have to issue a new decision ordering the preparation of the Environmental Impact Study, and then it will be made available to the public so that the professional and general public will have the opportunity to present their comments, suggestions and remarks. During this time, the investor must not start construction until he has secured all the necessary permits such as environmental, urban and construction permits, all on condition that the Environmental Impact Study is approved.
“We welcome this verdict, because it indicates all the negatives of the Ministry’s biased actions in such cases, which can be detrimental to the environment, and imposes the obligation to examine the impact of the project on nature before obtaining any permits. With the hope that we will receive more such verdicts, I am sure that we will defend our rivers from the invasion of individuals who are fighting only for their profit “, said Nina Kreševljaković, legal advisor of the Aarhus Center in BiH.
As proven by the court process, the Ministry did not act in accordance with the law when it obtained the disputed decision, because it only states that the submitted documentation was analyzed and opinions were considered, and that it was determined that this hydropower system will not have a significant impact on environment. However, there are no reasons and evidence that indicate the legality of the opinion, and thus the decision. The court ultimately finds that not only was there an incomplete and incorrectly established factual situation and incorrect application of substantive law, but that the disputed decision contains shortcomings that prevent the assessment of its legality in an administrative dispute in court.
What the court also considered disputable is the fact that the Ministry stated in the disputed act that the hydropower system will not have a significant impact on the environment, taking into account all submitted opinions, despite the fact that in one of the submitted opinions by the Republic Institute for Cultural and Historical Protection and Natural Heritage are cited by numerous negative impacts of this hydropower system on the environment of this area. The opinion mentions that this hydropower system will lead to a change in the landscape and impact on aquatic ecosystems, and that there will be a change in nature in terms of environmental value.
Also, the upper course of the Neretva River from Ulog to the springs is one of the largest, most important and best preserved habitats of brown trout Salmo truutta Lennaeus, and one of the most important measures to protect and preserve the area is the protection of this special habitat, the so-called. spawning grounds. Ultimately, Republic Institute for Cultural and Historical Protection and Natural Heritage states that the construction of the hydropower facility of the HES “Gornja Neretva” Phase I is contrary to the principles of nature conservation and protection, which the court particularly appreciated when passing the verdict.
The court states that “the Ministry should please everyone, not only the mentioned Republic Institute but also the investor, by combining in its solution what is incompatible, saying that this hydropower system will allegedly not have a significant impact on the environment, but also strictly take into account all the above opinions. “
For all the above reasons, the court ordered that the disputed decision of the Ministry be annulled and a new administrative act be passed, taking into account the legal understanding and remarks of the court.