A session of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention (1) today agreed to carry out a fact-finding mission in response to a complaint against Bosnia and Herzegovina for failing to protect the upper Neretva river from eight planned hydropower plants. One of them – Ulog – is already under construction.

The 35 MW Ulog plant, with a 53-metre high dam, is being developed by the EFT Group and built by China’s Sinohydro. Construction works already halted once in 2013 after two fatal accidents caused by landslides (2), but resumed in 2020. A series of seven smaller plants is also planned further upstream by local company Marvel d.o.o. and will turn most of the upper course of the river – a section of about 38 kilometres – into a series of dams, pipes and reservoirs. 

The complaint, due to the upper Neretva being part of the Convention’s Emerald Network, was submitted by environmental organizations Center for the Environment, Aarhus Center Sarajevo, Riverwatch, Euronatur, ClientEarth and CEE Bankwatch Network at the end of last year. 

The Emerald Network is an ecological network consisting of natural areas of special interest for protection, located in the member states of the Bern Convention. Due to its uniqueness, the upper course of the Neretva River was already back in 2005 proposed for protection within this network.

Although the environmental impact assessments for these projects identified several significant species such as otters and crayfish present, the government of the Republika Srpska Entity concluded, without any evidence, that these projects would not have a negative impact on the environment and can be implemented. 

“Research shows that the area around the source and upper course of the Neretva has been confirmed as an extremely well-preserved ecosystem. Muddy water due to the construction and operation of the Ulog the hydropower plant would destroy the most important Balkan populations of marble trout (Salmo marmoratus), soft-mouthed trout, (Salmo obtusirostris) and the endemic Neretva loach (Cobitis naretana) downstream, while the seven plants upstream would threaten the survival of the only brown trout Adriatic haplotype. More precisely – the upper Neretva would completely change from a river into a series of reservoirs and pipelines”, said Jelena Ivanic, coordinator of the Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina from the Center for the Environment. 

“Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a signatory to the Bern Convention, is committed to preserving wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats, yet Republika Srpska is blundering ahead with allowing the destruction of the entire upper Neretva.”

The Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign aims to protect the most valuable rivers in the Balkans from building hydropower plants. The campaign is coordinated by the NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur, and is being run jointly with partner organizations from the Balkans. 

Notes for editors

  1. Bern Convention on the Protection of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats 
  2. For more details see: https://bankwatch.org/press_release/complaint-on-bosnia-herzegovina-dams-on-neretva-river-submitted-to-the-bern-convention

Centar za životnu sredinu poziva vizuelne umjetnike da se prijave na javni konkurs za vizuelni prikaz na temu “Balkan bez uglja u 2036. godini”. Konkurs je otvoren do 16. maja 2022. godine.

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