Representatives of Center for Environment have visited the area of Sanica in the municipality of Ključ and witnessed the consequences for the plant and animal life caused by interventions on the Sanica and Korčanica rivers. However, there are people present on both rivers, their guardians, who are raising their voices to preserve them. They do not give up even though the rivers have already been devastated, and they are becoming louder and stronger.
Sanica has undergone significant changes in its course and riparian area in the upper reaches, shortly after its source, under the pretext of a flood defence project, even though the local population claims that Sanica has never flooded there before.
“Although we were aware of these issues from the very beginning, visiting the riverbanks and listening to Muhamed and Safijan’s testimonies shocked us. We call upon the local population, experts, institutions, and organisations to respond to the appeal of the Sanica Ecological Movement and provide them with the support they deserve. They must not be alone because they are fighting for the most valuable thing we have – water,” stated Vladimir Topić from Center for Environment.
Muhamed Kučuković, a resident of Sanica, has been asking questions to relevant institutions since the autumn of 2021 when the works on the “riverbed improvement project” began, expressing concerns that the river would be destroyed. He attended meetings and sought expert advice from universities in Sarajevo. All of this was not enough.
“The Sanica River has been completely devastated; it’s no longer the river I grew up with and a significant reason why I returned to Bosnia. I hope that federal inspection will mandate the restoration of the Sanica River to its original state or at least close to what it used to be. Someone must be held accountable for this lawlessness being carried out against nature and the people who depend on the river,” Kučuković stated.
The local population wants to see those responsible for the river’s destruction held accountable as they worked without the necessary permits on a project that was inherently questionable, and ultimately, they expect habitat revitalisation.
Korčanica, a tributary of the Sanica River, has also been devastated, for different reasons but equally destructive. Safijan Konjević has observed the changes in the Korčanica River for the past 20 years, while the owners of the “Sanica Trout” fishery took more and more water from its course every year. The source of this river now looks like a pond; the water has been slowed by dams for the fishery, creating pressure on the source. The local population is concerned that the river might even run dry. Private interests prevailed once again over the public good. Despite numerous inquiries, pleas, and even attempts to block the works, Safijan remained isolated and ignored in his struggle.
Nataša Crnković, the coordinator of the Biodiversity and Protected Areas program at Center for Environment, underscores that first-category rivers must enjoy genuine protection, not just on paper.
“The Sanica River used to be drinkable directly from its course, but now, in addition to the devastated river, the situation is worsening because sewage pipes from an entire settlement have been directed straight into the Sanica. After the frenzy for building small hydroelectric plants subsided, more and more projects for ‘river improvement’ are emerging, which disregard the entire flora and fauna within the river. These projects view the river purely technically, once again to the detriment of both people and nature. This needs to be a bitter lesson and a mistake that our society must not repeat,” Nataša adds.
Center for Environment, along with the involvement of other organisations like the Sarajevo Aarhus Center, previously supported the voices of individuals gathered in the Facebook group “Stop Ecocide and the Destruction of the Sanica and Korčanica Rivers,” from which the Sanica Ecological Movement later emerged. Center will continue its legal, expert, and advisory activities to restore a part of the life and brilliance that these rivers once had, and they believe that over time, awareness about the need to preserve these rivers will grow within the local community itself.