Towards the end of 2020, a year that was largely a turning point in terms of destruction and protection of rivers in BiH, the Center for Environment filed a lawsuit against the decision of the Concessions Commission of Republika Srpska, by which this body gave its prior consent to conclude Annex 1 of the concession agreement for the construction of SHPP Bjelava, planned near Foča.
Last year, defenders of rivers and the environment in BiH together achieved a victory which is reflected in the adoption of the Declaration on River Protection in FBiH, and immediately from the beginning of the current year the Declaration in RS, which, although declarative acts, recognizes the need for special attention to protect the natural heritage of our country.
However, despite the unanimous struggle of the entire BiH citizenry, when it comes to the Bjelava River, it seems that this tributary of the Drina will still have to wait for institutional protection.
Eleven months after the lawsuit filed against the Concessions Commissions decision which passed without any verification of the work of the notorious concessionaire “Srbinjeputevi” d.o.o. from Foča, the Center received a judgment of the District Court in Banja Luka rejecting the lawsuit as unfounded.
In addition to the court’s acknowledgment that the plaintiff had rightly sued the impugned act, because the construction of small hydropower plants significantly affects the environment at a particular site, the same court, in addition to multiple lawsuits, found no reason why the Commission should have refused to give consent, which largely meets the requirements of the concessionaire.
The matter would be less worrying if the same concessionaire, in the middle of the current year, was not convicted of a criminal offense related to forgery, based on a guilty plea. However, although the competent court was informed in a timely manner by supplementing the lawsuit, as well as the Commission itself, and the Government and the National Assembly of the RS, the disputed decision, as well as the concessionaire’s privilege, remained unquestioned.
The court appreciated all the allegations of the lawsuit, but due to the unfortunate private-legal character of the concession agreement, it supports the interpretation that only and exclusively the contracting parties have the right to terminate or extend the concession agreement. The court states that the Government has the right to terminate the concession agreement for the construction of SHPPs on the Bjelava River, but the explanation of the verdict lacks the key question – whether the RS Government, after all, has an OBLIGATION to terminate the contract.
We remind you that 30.12.2020 a meeting was held with the responsible ministers in the Government building on the disputed implementation of the concession on the Bjelava River. It was then announced that the Government had expressly agreed to annex the contract with “Srbinjeputevi” d.o.o., despite criminal charges and a report by the RS Ministry of the Interior in which the disputed concessionaire was suspected of committing several crimes. After that, the Center for Environment filed a lawsuit against this decision of the RS Government, and while the court procedure continues, the realization of this unfortunate concession was interrupted by the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and Ecology.
Instructed by experience, the public doubts the chances that the RS Government will finally take a step towards terminating this concession. However, while the epilogue of the entire criminal investigation and administrative dispute against the grantor is expected, the defenders say that they will not allow the rule of injustice, and that they expect the judicial authorities, as well as the RS Government, to stand on the right side of history and recognize the true general interest of our society.