Despite the ban on public gathering, locals in Foča this morning began blocking the construction of small hydropower plants (SHPPs) Bjelava and Mala Bjelava, and were joined by representatives of The Coalition for Protection of Rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The blockade brought together more than two dozen locals who prevented workers from passing to machinery and carrying on illegal work.
Illegal construction of these SHPPs is being carried out by the company “Srbinjeputevi” Ltd. from Foča, and it began in a situation where the movement of citizens was restricted, public gatherings were forbidden and inspection was hampered, prompting a revolt of the local population.
“We grew up here and this river raised us. We have learned to swim here and want to prevent further destruction of our environment. I would like to thank the people who came to support us and told everyone that we would not give up Bjelava, ” said resident Milos Vujičić.
The locals in their requests were supported by other organizations fighting for river conservation in their municipalities. Among them were representatives of the Citizens’ Association “Eko Center” from Višegrad.
“We have come to the invitation of our river guardians fellows. There is a violation of all rights and a major crime against nature and our people here,” said Dejan Furtula, President of the Eko Center.
Immediately upon receipt of the information on the start of construction of the hydropower plant Bjelava and Mala Bjelava, from The Coalition for Protection of Rivers of BiH, the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Civil Construction and Ecology of RS was sent a request for insight into the environmental, construction and urban permits issued for the said hydropower plants.
The Ministry submitted a response stating that the procedures prescribed by the Law on Environmental Protection and the Law on Spatial Planning and Construction were not even conducted, based on which Center for Environment from Banja Luka decided to file a criminal complaint against the suspect private investor on behalf of the Coalition.
“We request the Public Prosecutor’s Office of RS to initiate investigative proceedings against a suspect investor who is currently conducting illegal construction without any necessary permit. We believe that the commission of a crime should not go unpunished, especially if one uses this situation, caused by a coronavirus pandemic, to illegally build such facilities “, said Miloš Orlić, Coordinator of the Coalition for Protection of Rivers in BiH.
In addition to filing criminal charges, the Coalition requires the Urban Planning and Construction and Environmental Inspectorate of RS to urgently inspect the process of works on Bjelava and Mala Bjelava rivers.
“When the inspector who is in charge finds that our claims are correct, based on the response of the competent ministry, as well as the photo documentation we have provided, we require them to comply with the law and their authority and to order an immediate halt of illegal works on these two rivers,” said Orlić.
In the meantime, locals of communities, in which small hydropower plants are being built, say they will not give up their fight and will not allow private interest to be above the law and the public interest.