Bosnian Federation to ban small hydropower plants

An artificial lake of a hydroelectric power station on the Drina River covered with 4,000 cubic meters of waste brought by water from the neighboring state of Montenegro in Visegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 04 January 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/FEHIM HALF

Lawmakers in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the Federation parliament, voted on Monday amendments to the entity’s electricity law to ban the construction of new small hydropower plants due to their negative impact on the environment.

The decision comes after a decade of struggle between environmental activists and construction companies. Activists say the construction of small hydropower plants is damaging rivers, harming biodiversity and causing problems for local residents.

The amendments to the law, which were supported by 65 of the 67 lawmakers in the House of Representatives, will ban the construction of small hydroelectric plants up to 10 MWh.

“We have one step left in this process, which is the vote in the House of Peoples of the Federal Parliament, which must confirm this law,” said Lejla Kusturica, director of the ACT Foundation, an NGO that leads the campaign against small hydroelectric plants over the past two years.

During this period, two major protests took place on the Kruscica River, where local women spent more than 504 days in makeshift accommodation to prevent the construction of a small hydroelectric plant.

Another major protest took place on the Neretvica River where residents and activists stopped the work of construction companies four times.

“This legislation did not just fall from the sky, it was a consequence of defending the rivers with human bodies, and in the end the parliament was forced to respect the will of the people,” Kusturica said.

The aim is to have the law ready before the general elections scheduled for October 2022.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, another entity, the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska, small hydropower plants are not banned by environmentalists campaigning against them.

“Some improvements have been made and we will certainly continue to work with our friends at the Banja Luka Environmental Center [in Republika Srpska] and support them in their efforts to defend our rivers,” Kusturica said.

In 2021, the 119 small hydropower plants that have been built in Bosnia and Herzegovina produced only 2.54% of all the electricity produced in the country and employed on average only one or two people each due to the automating.

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