Local population and experts believe that building hydropower plants will destroy the environment.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Foca -- 13/10/12
The Drina River is one of the biggest in the Balkans. [Drazen Remikovic/SETimes]
Ecological organisations and the local population in Foca, in eastern BiH, opposed the Republika Srpska government's plan to build four hydropower plants on the Drina River, one of the largest rivers in the Balkans.
Opponents argue that the ecosystem and the environment would be seriously jeopardised if the 30km of the river is turned into a lake.
Foca Mayor Zdravko Krsmanovic said he would not allow the plants to be constructed without letting citizens voice their opinions.
"No one ever asked us if we are for this, not a single document on the construction plan arrived in Foca," Krsmanovic told SETimes.
"Drina is one of the cleanest rivers in Europe, and the government wants to drown it. Even the Montenegrin authorities have warned to possible environmental problems. We will hold a referendum in which the people will declare whether they want to build this power plant. No one from Banja Luka can decide on the fate of the citizens of Foca," he said.
The RS government signed a contract last week to build four hydropower plants with Germany's RWE Energy Corporation, which are expected to be constructed in early 2014. The plants should generate around 750 gigawatt-hours (GWh) annually and the cost of construction is 460 million euros.
Government reresentatives said that there is absolutely no danger when it comes to the ecology and enviromental system of this area.
"We have guarantees [from] RWE that the construction will proceed with the respect of all environmental standards applicable in Europe. That is the most important thing in the whole story," Industry, Energy and Mining Minister Zeljko Kovacevic told reporters after signing the agreement.
Similar resistance to building hydropower plants is happening in other regional countries.
Croatian citizens and NGOs are protesting the goverment's project to build a plant on the Ombla River. Environemtal studies by Croatia's Enviromental Protection Ministry show that the plant could damage the enviroment.
Serbia is planning to build two plants on the Lim River, in the country's south, but citizens said they won't allow their enviroment "become a swamp."
Miodrag Dakic, director of the Centre for the Envoriment in Banja Luka, an NGO that deals with ecology, said authorities are showing a high degree of ignorance to ecological rules.
"Dams are facilities that have a huge impact on the environment in the rivers, and wildlife that depend on the river. On the other hand, very little is done on the exploitation of other renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass," Dakic told SETimes.
Citizens said that they will defend their houses and properties.
"In the basin of the river there are two cemeteries, Muslim and Orthodox. Both will be flooded if they [build the hydroplants]. Not to mention hundreds of houses and families that will be left without anything. Why would I want a job in a hydropower plant if that same plant soaks my house?" Munib Jakovljevic, a farmer from Foca told SETimes.