River Defenders Seek Rights Recognition for the River in the Blue Heart of Europe


Contacts: Darlene Lee (dlee@earthlaw.org) 509 218 9338)

New York, NY (November 2018)—Today, the Bosnia River Action Network Advocacy (BRANA) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, seeks recognition of rights for the beautiful Doljanka River, one of the few wild rivers left in Europe which is now being threatened by a mini hydropower plant. Members include Eko akcija (“eco action”) and Gotusa, Green Visions and Earth Law Center.

Financed by the former NBA Player Mirza Teletović, construction and development teams started destroying the river banks in order to lay 2-meter diameter pipes at a pace of 20-30 meters a day, according to Anes Podic, of Eko Akcija (Eco Action) in Bosnia. They have obtained an environmental permit based on flawed impact studies.

''This is just the latest example - we now see and hear almost weekly of the Balkans wild rivers being destroyed by rampant private businesses, both local and EU-based, with the help of local political elite, financed by Austrian, German and Russian banks. In this light, it may be disconcerting to some but is in fact very indicative that neither the EU nor the World Bank have even mentioned environmental problems in their latest strategy for the Western Balkans power and energy strategies. While the EU may not care, the local communities do: they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose from these projects,'' says Podic.

Over 20 organizations have signed an Open Letter protesting the appointment of the former NBA player Mirza Teletović as president of the Basketball Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and chairman of the jury for the selection of an athlete of the year in BiH.

Most of the small hydro plants in the region produce no more than 1 megawatt (MW) each — roughly enough to power 750 homes, but environmentalists say they completely destroy riverbeds, disrupt fish migration routes, and pose a threat to dozens of species, including the Danube Salmon, Balkan Lynx, Marble Trout and Softmouth Trout.

Ninety-five percent of villagers in the area where Doljanka flows have signed a petition against the mini hydro plants, which would destroy local community’s plans to develop fly-fishing and sport fishing,” the Coalition for the protection of rivers in Bosnia, the NGO, said in a statement.

Produced by the firm Patagonia, a new documentary Blue Heart highlights how 3,000 hydropower plants planned across the Balkans will destroy the last wild rivers in Europe, and with them irreparably eradicate entire ecosystems critical for the health of Europe. The Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign is building momentum to save the wild rivers of the Balkans.  EcoAlbania won its first court battle against one of the largest approved dam projects along the Vjosa near the town of Poçem.

Watch the video here: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6PtxYYTop9I&feature=youtu.be

Eko akcija, based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, is working on pressing environmental problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina such as protection of its rich biodiversity, water supplies, air pollution, garbage disposal thru grassroots campaigns. They are founded by Green Visions who pioneered eco-tourism movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Gotusa are a grassroots community organizer from Fojnica and have been instrumental in the fight so far. 

Earth Law Center works to transform the law to recognize and protect nature’s inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. This includes advancing the inherent rights of rivers through initiatives with local partners to secure rights recognition.