“Neretvica river, like all our rivers, is our holiness that we’ll never give to you! Investors should not come, because they shall not pass”, said the residents of the Neretvica valley, who early this morning, together with representatives of the Coalition for Protection of Rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina and numerous other associations, blocked the passage over the bridge on this river in Parsovici, near Konjic.
The blockade of the bridge, which lasted from 6 am to 1 pm, was organized due to the announcement that the construction of small hydropower plants (sHPPs) “Gorovnik Usce” and “Srijanski Most” will take place on the same day.
These are first two of the 15 planned sHPPs on Neretvica River. Over 300 citizens that gathered today on Neretvica have send a clear message that they would not allow the realization of these projects.
“Don’t bother to come back and to disturb us or yourself!” Here we have 20 guys who have signed up to be willing to give their lives for this river. In half an hour, we will gather 200 people to block the passage of any machinery!”, said Sead Hakalovic, president of the Coordination Committee for the Protection of Neretvica, to investors and their partners.
Today the locals have proven that they can gather over a hundred people in a very short time.
After no machinery or any of the investors have showed up, the citizens slowly dispersed around 1 pm. However, only half an hour after the end of the blockade, Edhem Bicakcic appeared in Parsovici, who is a well known retired politician who is now a consultant to the investor, the national electricity provider (Elektroprivreda BiH) for the sHPP projects on the Neretvica river, and also the owner of the company in charge of planning and distribution of mechanical equipment for sHPPs.
The locals surrounded him and within 15 minutes over a hundred citizens gathered again on a single spot. They expressed their views regarding the projects and advised him not to return. Although he initially denied any connection to the project, Bicakcic eventually admitted that his company “Bicakcic” d.o.o. has a contract with Elektroprivreda BiH for the supply of equipment needed for the operation of sHPPs.
In today’s protests, the locals were supported by members of the Coalition for Protection of Rivers that came from Sarajevo, Kruscica, Fojnica, Foca and Banja Luka, and once again called for solidarity and joint action in the fight against the destruction of rivers in BiH.
“I came from Foca to support these people here who are protesting and defending this river, their beautiful Neretvica. On this occasion, I would like to say that we in Foca will also not give up our river Bjelava and we will not allow the construction of sHPPs on it!”, said Milos Vujicic from Foca.
Amir Variscic from the Association for Environmental Protection “Zeleni Neretva” from Konjic pointed out that they are united with the locals and other environmental organizations in this fight.
“We are asking for an audit of the issuance of concessions and environmental permits for the projects of these sHPPs!”, Said Variscic.
Representatives of the Coalition once again reminded that the dry riverbeds on which existing sHPPs are built prove that the mandatory minimum ecological flow is nothing but a dead letter on the paper.
“We demand a ban on the construction and abolition of incentives for small hydropower plants!”, stressed the members of this Coalition.
Earlier this year, mass protests were held on Neretvica river, after which local officials have promised that a thematic session of the municipal council will be held soon, in which the fate of this area will be decided democratically and with respect for the will of the people who oppose the construction of sHPPs. Although this session is still pending, the locals however expect councilors to support them in their fight for Neretvica.