River Keepers demand minimum flow regulations

The Coalition for the Protection of Rivers in Bosnia and Herzegovina calls on the competent agencies, institutions, ministries, and experts on biological and hydrological sciences to devote themselves as quickly as possible to solving the problem of environmentally friendly flow in BiH, to carry out the necessary research and analysis, and to develop a rulebook on an environmentally friendly flow that will be applicable. This is a message sent by the activists of the Coalition from a peaceful gathering held today at Trg Oslobođenja in Sarajevo on the occasion of World River Day, which is celebrated on the last Sunday in September.

According to the Coalition, the over-abstraction of water for electricity production at hydropower facilities jeopardizes the provision of an environmentally friendly flow, or minimum flow, which ensures the conservation of the natural balance and ecosystems related to water.

The Rulebook on the Method of Determining Minimum Flow has been adopted in the Federation of BiH, while the Republika Srpska does not yet have one. The initiative of the Center for Environment and the Czech environmental organization Arnika, who, in cooperation with experts, drafted a methodology and a draft proposal for this Rulebook, was also rejected. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Water Management of the RS did not accept the initiative with an explanation that there is a lack of validation of the research methodology. Such research is time-consuming, demanding, and expensive and impossible to conduct for civil society organizations. They are under the jurisdiction of the Sava River Basin District Agency and the Adriatic Sea River Basin District in the FBiH and the public institution “Vode Srpske” in the Republika Srpska.

“We from civil society see a problem that we cannot solve on our own, but to which we can contribute. To the best of our ability, we are ready to organize a new round of consultations, but we expect the institutions to devote all necessary resources, take the initiative, and fulfil the obligations arising from their competences, the Law on Water, and obligations towards the European Union,” said Miloš Orlić, Coordinator of the Coalition for the Protection of Rivers in BiH.

The gathering in Sarajevo is part of the “River Keepers” campaign implemented through the Eko BiH project funded by the European Union and co-financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic through the Transition programme. As a part of this campaign, the Coalition organized an event in August to collect photographs of dry riverbeds countrywide caused by the building of hydropower plants.

“Hundreds of people participated in the campaign and sent us photos of dry riverbeds, which were further shared and commented on on social media. This speaks volumes both about the importance of the connection people feel towards their rivers and about the great problem that the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina has in the absence of regulations on minimum flow. Where some see a wild and beautiful river, others see money. The rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina are being destroyed by the massive construction of hydropower plants without any monitoring. That is why it is necessary to regulate this area as soon as possible,” said Zuzana Vachunova from the Czech organization Arnika.

Eko BIH Project Coordinator Viktor Bjelić points out that the establishment of monitoring would greatly reduce the arbitrariness and arrogant behaviour of a large number of hydropower plants which, for profit, mercilessly exploit natural resources through excessive water abstraction, irreversibly destroying the rivers and biodiversity of BiH.

The needs of the local population as water users, which are often neglected, should not be forgotten, Bjelić concludes.