Residents of Višegrad Hope for a Public Debate Due to Endangerment of Their Drinking Water Sources

Residents of Višegrad wrote an open letter to the chairman of their municipality.

Full text follows below.


Respected Višegrad Municipality Chairman,

We are writing on behalf of many residents of our municipality, deeply dissatisfied over the planned construction of small hydroelectric power plants on rivers Black and White Rzav, as well as on river Jablanica, which threatens to destroy the entire fauna and flora on these beautiful rivers, their biodiversity, as well as harm the health of local community members.

Our association does not oppose investments and projects intended to help the development of Višegrad municipality. However, building small hydroelectric power plants on the aforementioned rivers will be useful only to individual investors, not our local community. These plants usually employ one person only, and oftentimes not even as many as that.

Our residents were not informed of a public discussion session concerning the eco permit for the small hydropower plant Jablanica, nor were they able to participate in it as it was never held. The only information about this process was published in Blic daily newspaper on May 25, 2018, as well as on the notice board of Višegrad municipality, which is not a sufficient effort to make it known to a wider community. Consequently, the residents were denied their rights of access to information, public participation in decision-making, and access to justice in environmental matters granted in Aarhus Convention. Open discussion was not organized because the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Construction and Ecology decided that a study of effects on the local environment is not needed regarding the Jablanica small hydropower plant, which is needed as the grounds for an open discussion. This again denied the residents their right to participate via a public discussion.

We ask the following of you:

1. Not to accept and approve the request for construction of the object in question.

2. To reject the notice from the contractor regarding the start of construction, thereby delaying it.

3. To organize a public forum where the attendees will be informed about:

-Concession contract, relevant annexes, inaccuracies in concession period of 30 or 50 years, increases in power from 892 kW to 950 kW, and other technical details regarding the object to be built.

-The reasons behind providing a Permit with which the investor is not obliged to perform a study of effects on the local environment, thereby evading a public discussion.

-The reasons behind granting concession, location conditions and other documentation such as an eco permit.

We expect your written support and scheduling of a special session of the Municipality Višegrad Assembly to discuss these matters, so that this damaging idea would be stopped immediately, as it is your duty as our representative to protect our interests.

We appeal to you as the leader of our municipality to consider our requests and support this initiative. You have been elected by the people and you must work for the people, majority of which are against building small hydropower plants on local rivers.

The Rzav river region is also home to the main source of Višegrad drinking water, and existing construction plans threaten the city water supply. Is building a small hydropower plant worth so much risk?



                                                                                                 photo Eko Centar Višegrad

We hope for a shared dialogue that will help resolve these issues before the construction work and potential damage to nature and communities have begun. Also, we expect that you will respond affirmatively to our requests in the near future. If that does not happen, we are prepared to ask for our rights in the court of law (even though that is not what we desire), through peaceful protests, and via all other nonviolent forms of civil disobedience.

As a non-partisan civic association gathered around a shared idea of preserving our rivers, we ask what will be left to our children after our nature is destroyed by careless individuals.

Do not be silent on this issue, do not let them take away the beauty that is right in front of us.

We urge you to do everything in your power. We assure you that we will not give up, but we also expect your support.

Source: Facebook page Odbranimo rijeke Višegrada