People losing their nature and landscapes, villagers being denied access to drinking and utility water, one of the last wild rivers in Europe being devastated… These are not the only consequences of building up new hydropower plants in Bosnia and Herzegovina, often without proper consultation with those who are the most affected. To stop the negative impacts of hydropower plants on the local communities as well as the environment, is an objective of the new “Dams-Free Municipalities Initiative”.
The first signatory, the mayor of Sokolac Milovan Bjelica (SDS) joined the initiative on the 2nd of September 2020. “For the municipality of Sokolac, the development of tourism is of much greater importance than small hydropower plants. Therefore, we have adopted the Development Strategy prohibiting construction of them in the territory of the local communities of Kaljina and Knežina, where the most beautiful rivers flow. In cases where someone wants to sell his or her land, the Municipality of Sokolac will have pre-emptive rights. Thus, we can prevent the abuse of the land by projects that could endanger our environment,” the mayor says.
Pictures of the signing of the Dams-Free Municipalities Initiative can be found here ˃˃˃
Also the mayor of Rogatica Milorad Jagodić (SNSD) has announced his support for the Dams-Free Municipalities Initiative, and promised to bring the topic up for voting at the next session of the municipal council.
“A number of local civic initiatives have been standing against hydropower plants and protecting the last European wild rivers and the rule of law. We appreciate the first signatory of the Dams-Free Initiative, the municipality of Sokolac, and are calling on other local governments to join their citizens and stand up together for the protection of rivers and the right to live in a healthy environment,“ Zuzana Vachůnová from the Czech non-governmental organization Arnika explains.
The signature of the mayor of Sokolac was welcomed by a coalition of seventeen local civic initiatives that organized a joint successful campaign to save the rivers Kaljina and Bioštica from the construction of small hydropower plants.
“The opposition to the construction of small hydropower plants goes back to the year 2019. The association of sports fishermen with 16 other local initiatives organized a protest and a petition signed by 10 % of the municipalities citizens. The municipal council consequently concluded that the Development Strategy of Sokolac 2020-2030 must prohibit construction of small hydropower plants on the rivers Kaljina and Bioštica. In addition we initiated legal steps to annul the decision of the Republika Srpska government. The signing of the Dams-Free Municipalities Initiative by the mayor of Sokolac is a result of long-term effort of our civic organizations,” describes Mira Čajić, the representative of the coalition.
“Builders of the dams export our natural resources. Due to the short-term profit of a few people, they endanger the quality of life of future generations. It is necessary to give the right to participate in the decision-making processes about constructions on the rivers back to the citizens. The municipalities and local communities  have to take matters into their own hands and protect their environment. Undoubtedly, the rivers have more sustainable potential than hydro-electric power generation, for example sustainable tourism, that can be beneficial for the whole community,” says Dragana Skenderija, the coordinator of the Coalition for the Protection of Rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
 Local community (mjesna zajednica) is a form of local self-government for a part of the area of a municipality or a statutory town in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Members of mjesna zajednica are elected by citizens of the area.