Noise, intrusion of privacy, destruction of property and various pressures are just some of the problems faced by people living in the immediate vicinity of mini hydropower plants (MHPP) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Written by: Vanja Stokić; Photo & Video: Ajdin Kamber
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, 121 MHPPs were built along the rivers, while another 352 are planned or under construction. This year, the Federation banned the construction of MHPPs, but Republika Srpska has not yet done so.
Two HPPs were built on the right tributary of the Neretva, the Kraljuštica River. Mirsad Čakširan was born and raised in the village of Hasanovići, municipality of Konjic. He spent his youth on the river, which he doesn’t even recognize now.
“During the summer, we regularly went swimming and fishing. The Kraljištica River was extremely rich in rainbow trout, perhaps one of the highest-quality fish. With the construction of the mini-power station, the place where we used to swim was destroyed, the pool no longer exists, and there is almost no fish”, explains Mirsad.
He takes us to several approaches to the river, enclosed by a ramp. As he tells us, access is almost impossible.
“I think it would be far better to build a tourist facility in the valley. If this river were in a developed country in Western Europe, it would be used to develop tourism. Fish could be farmed here, and I think much more tourists would come here, and the residents would benefit a lot more. The construction of hydropower plants provides no benefits. On the contrary”, says he.
In the village of Kozica, Fojnica municipality, an MHPP was built 17 years ago. Ever since the villagers have spent days and nights surrounded by noise.
“Nobody ever told us the HPP would be so loud and trouble us. The engineers who inspected the facility promised that the MHPP would be enclosed and produce no noise. However, nobody has done anything for 17 years. “They never finished it”, says Amir Mešanović.
As he points out, it’s difficult to describe his problems. During the construction, the investor bought a part of the land from him. However, if he had known how that would affect his life, he would never have sold it.
“If I’d known about that, I wouldn’t have sold the land for any money No, not at all. I can’t sleep at night, I feel unwell. I’m dizzy, it’s killing me. It’s very difficult for us here, nobody understands us. My mom is 80. She can’t sleep here because of the power plant. The noise is unbearable not just to me but to the whole village. Indeed, there are just a dozen of inhabitants here. But I think that even if I was alone here, nobody has the right to trouble me. Or my mom. So, please, solve the problem”, says Mešanović.
Another problem is pipe cracking, which damages the properties of the villagers.
“When a pipe cracks, it’s a disaster. My land and my uncle’s land were flooded. And the pipe often cracks”, says he briefly.
Not far away from Amir, the Hodžić family of the village of Kaćuni in Busovača municipality participates in a reality show unwillingly every day. An SHPP is located only 12 meters away from their house. Besides the noise, there are CCTV cameras all around. The Hodžićs say that intrudes on their privacy.
“I filed a lawsuit that the Municipality Court and the Cantonal Court rejected. It was forwarded to a higher-instance court, which also confirmed that the Law allows the owner of the HPP to have cameras installed and thus invade my privacy. That is how it ended. That is why we planted these palms here, to protect our privacy. I live here like I was in a reality show. I feel I have no privacy whatsoever. At my own home, in my own backyard”, says Salko Hodžić.
The noise is, like Amir’s, his big problem. Especially because the rock below his house transfers vibrations, which makes his nights sleepless.
“When this MHPP was built, I filed a complaint with the cantonal environmental inspection. The inspectors came to measure the noise level. Nobody came from the HPP management. I have filed complaints two or three times. When the power plant operates, either at full or reduced capacity, I can’t sleep and suffer from insomnia. I had to leave the house last winter at -30 because of the unbearable, constant and irritating noise”, he says.
Damages to his house are visible. Regardless of renovation, which cost him a lot. Regardless of renovation, which cost him a lot. In addition to the construction works, he has costs of court disputes against the MHPP owner.
“The authorities were criminally negligent in this case. If they issued the construction permit for the MHPP, they had to make sure my household and family were protected. My financial loss is a minimum of BAM 80,000. The first lawsuit was filed regarding the concession permit and cost BAM 12,000. That was done deliberately – the court costs were pushed up to exclude me from the process as I couldn’t pay so much. However, environmental organizations and people who care about protecting nature from Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia helped me greatly. They all assisted in the struggle”, says Salko.
The house where he used to live with his wife and their four children is now almost completely empty. Due to pressure from different sides, the children went abroad. Nevertheless, he does not give up fighting and believes justice will eventually win. No matter how long he has to wait.