Photo: Robert Oroz
At the 45th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, a decision was adopted, which obliges Bosnia and Herzegovina to assess the potential impact of Buk Bijela hydropower project, planned on Drina River, on the high natural values of Durmitor and on the Tara River, through an updated Environment Impact assessment (EIA) in close consultation with the state of Montenegro.
Two more hydropower plants are planned in the upper reaches of the Drina River, in addition to the Buk Bijela, Foča and Paunci, the Board asked the member states of Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia to maintain the continuity of the river ecosystem and the continuous presence of Danube salmon through the undisturbed flow of the river, as well as to ensure that the potential impacts of these planned projects are assessed in accordance with guidelines and tools for impact assessment in the context of World Heritage. BiH and Serbia must also ensure an assessment of potential impacts through the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment, in cooperation with Montenegro.
For years, civil society associations from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro are pointing out the risks that Buk Bijela project carries, as well as the problems associated with it as the negative consequences that its construction would have on the environment. Due to this project, several appeals were submitted to international bodies, as well as appeal procedure conducted to the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Durmitor National Park is on UNESCO list of world natural and cultural heritage, while the Tara canyon has been declared a world ecological reserve, and according to Montenegro, these areas would be damaged by the construction of Buk Bijela hydropower plant in Foča, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Jelena Ivanić from Center for Environment states that in addition to all the problems associated with this project, starting with the very method of awarding concessions, she is especially concerned about its impact on biodiversity and the environment, as well as the potential for the continued development of tourism on Drina and Tara rivers.
“Here are the most important habitats of the globally endangered Danube salmon, which is found only in some of the cleanest rivers in the Danube basin of Southeastern Europe, and the construction of any type of dam would damage water quality, biodiversity and tourism. It is clear that these projects must not be built in order to preserve highly valuable natural areas of importance for all three countries.”
Nataša Kovačević from the international organization CEE Bankwatch, which deals with monitoring the financing of projects in the field of energy, points out that she expects Bosnia and Herzegovina to launch a new procedure for environmental impact assessment and cross-border environmental impact assessment.
“This includes the impact on the exceptional natural values of Durmitor and the Tara River in accordance with the decision of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee and assesses the cumulative impacts of all planned hydropower projects in the upper Drina basin on the territory of Montenegro, and through the new Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment.”
Nataša Milivojević from the Ecological Association “Rzav” from Serbia and an associate of WWF Adria states that the attitude of Serbia, which has the largest share of ownership in this project (51%), is particularly worrying when assessing the risk and impact on the environmen.
“Public in Serbia is still not familiar with the agreement between Serbia and Republic of Srpska, as well as with undertaking a role in the cross-border impact of this project on Montenegro. This international Decision confirms that the concerns of civil society organizations and the Government of Montenegro about the harmful cross-border impacts of HPP Buk Bijela are justified, which also coincides with the recently published Draft Decision of the Secretariat of the ESPOO Convention (from October 3, 2023) in the procedure conducted between other things Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The draft of that Decision assesses that the cross-border procedure of the environmental impact of the HPP Buk Bijela project was not carried out in accordance with the requirements of the Convention, and it is ordered to repeat the procedure and prepare a new environmental impact assessment.”
Center for Environment expects close cooperation with the state of Montenegro in the further action of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we believe that the harmfulness of the project for nature and people will be determined, which will lead to the state abandoning the construction of this project.