On the occasion of March 22, World Water Day, a public debate was held today in Foča on the construction of the Buk Bijela, Foča and Paunci hydropower plants. Representatives of international non-governmental organizations and citizens’ associations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro presented to the interested public the chronology of the Buk Bijela project, the risks it carries and the problems associated with it, ie the negative consequences of its construction to the environment.
“The concession for this project was awarded at the entity level, the Constitutional Court of BiH ruled that this procedure is unconstitutional and the State Commission for Concessions of BiH was appointed to resolve this issue.” The project also has difficulties in finding funds and is a non-transparent source of funding, and its impact on biodiversity, the environment, as well as the potential for tourism development in this area is especially worrying, “said Jelena Ivanić of the Center for Environment from Banja Luka.
Nataša Kovačević from the international organisation CEE Bankwatch, which monitors the financing of projects in the field of energy, stressed that the World Bank and the European Union are not interested in investing in HPP Buk Bijela and Foca.
“That speaks enough about the fact that no serious investor who cares about the application of high environmental and social standards will embark on this kind of business.” Also, the feasibility of this project has not been proven, as well as the damage to the environment and the economy of local communities that depend on this river. We remind you that this is a connected system of rivers Drina – Tara, which is by far more profitable for the local communities of Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina than any other watercourse in these two countries. It is high time for BiH to give up dams and seriously dedicates itself to the protection of the natural resources of the upper Drina, with full legal protection of free flow and habitats of many protected species, especially huchen and trout. “
Nataša Milivojević from the Environmental Association “Rzav” from Serbia and an associate of the World Wide Fund for Nature- WWF Adria points out that they have repeatedly addressed the competent institutions in Serbia in connection with the construction of HPP “Buk Bijela”.
“The answer we received states that this project is in the preparatory phase, and that the source of funding is still unknown, and we were deprived of information on the content of the Agreement on Cooperation between the Government of Serbia and Republic of Srpska. So, we still don’t know whether this project will be financed by the citizens of Serbia or mostly by some private investors. For now, all that is known is that the cornerstone has been laid and that the public expects to receive feasibility and economic feasibility studies, as well as an impact assessment study. We know how relic projects are being taken out of the drawer, which are obsolete, so the right question is what is the vision of using hydropower and what are our national interests, knowing what the price of electricity is and how much losses there are on the networks. “
One of the economic branches that will definitely be affected by this project, and which has the greatest potential in the area of Foča, is rafting tourism. Mirko Davidović from the Rafting Centre “Tara-Raft” from Foča points out that the construction of these facilities will flood the upper course of the Drina, which is also its most beautiful part, part of the Sutjeska canyon and probably part of the Tara canyon, having in mind that the highest point of the lake is at the location where the Tara and Piva meet, where the river Drina originates.
“It will undoubtedly affect the flows of these rivers and thus the development of rafting, kayaking and canoeing in this area.” This area is recognized as a popular tourist destination not only in our country but also in Europe and around the world, and that potential will be damaged in the case of Tara, or completely destroyed in the case of Drina and Sutjeska. ” Representatives of environmental associations concluded that this is a project that is problematic for several reasons, ranging from funding to its impact on the environment.