Experts say that new hydroelectric power plants in BiH might be too high a price for the citizens from both sides of the Neretva.
By Bedrana Kaletovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 03/08/12
The 225km-long Neretva River runs through BiH and ends at the Adriatic on Croatia's coast. [Bedrana Kaletovic/SETimes]
The construction of three hydroelectric power plants on the Neretva River in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) would have a "drastic impact on hydrology and ecology in the area and grave consequences for the local population in both Croatia and Bosnia," Zoran Mateljak, a World Wildlife Foundation co-ordinator for BiH, said last week.
The plants could dry up the river and cause a further rift between the country's two entities, experts said.
The 170m-euro plants, which will have a capacity of 300 megawatts or 2,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year, would be financed by the Croatian government and Republika Srpska (RS).
The finished plants will allow RS to position itself as the biggest exporter of energy in the region.
However, the plan could be disastrous for the Neretva vally, even leading to ecological destruction, said Mario Siljeg, former director of Agency for Protection of Environment of Croatia.
The problem will develop when the course of the large quantities of underground waters from small rivers that flow into the Neretva are redirected to the newly built accumulations, Siljeg said.
"The level of fresh waters from Neretva is lower. If the sea breaches deeper into the river and salinates it, this changes the fish, bird and plant life in the region," Ensar Vistica, a fisherman form Metkovici, Croatia, told SETimes.
The 225km river runs through BiH and ends at the Adriatic on Croatia's coast, creating a delta of rich wetlands that are home to thousands of bird and fish. The US-based WWF urged the two countries' governments to halt the planned projects until a joint strategic study on the possible impact on the environment is made.
''The fertile valley of Neretva, which provides fruits and vegetables to a greater part of former Yugoslavia, is irrigated by the river. It is estimated that with the realisation of this project, 2 billion cubic meters of water will be taken away from Neretva yearly, which means that the biological minimum of the river will be greatly endangered as well as the system of irrigation of the agricultural spaes of this region," Ana Musa, president of Association Our Beautiful, told SETimes.
Farmers from the Croatian part of the Neretva produce around 80,000 tonnes of fruits and vegetables annually on 12,000 heatacres. The locals fear that the salination of the river would mean the end of agriculture in the region.
''Our ancestors grew mandarines, and so does my family now, but soon this can all become like the Sahara. This is horrible, and nobody is doing anything about it," Rafo Pijanovic, a farmer, told SETimes.
According to the Federation of BiH, the extensions of ecological catastrophy would come at a higher price that the savings from the energy gained through the plants. The Federation government put in a request two weeks ago that the project be delayed until an extensive public discussion takes place.
''The government of Federation BiH has interest to stop this project, since the natural park Hutovo Blato is directly being threatened and it is found on our territory. It is the biggest european habitat of birds, whose whole ecosystem depends completely on the flow of the Neretva," Siljeg told SETimes.