The company HET (Hydroelectric Power Plants on the Trebišnjica River) has destroyed the fields in the Dabar and Fatnica Fields near Bileća by releasing water from a newly built tunnel for additional water accumulation from the Bileća Lake. The owners of these fields have been left without compensation or with symbolic annual rents for completely devastated plots, which were once cultivable but are now unusable.

Written by: Andrijana Pisarević; Photographs: eTrafika

This is claimed by the affected residents and their legal representatives to eTrafika. They add that the construction of this tunnel was preceded by unfair expropriation of only a few parcels at prices that are multiple times lower than market prices, and by payment of symbolic rents where land should have been purchased due to permanent devastation.

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The tunnel for additional water accumulation was built several years ago, and the water released through it as needed has flooded the fields, carrying away cultivable land from Fatnica Field to Dabar Field. This has left behind craters that cannot be repaired.

This kind of usage has rendered the fields unusable, and the owners of once cultivable areas have not been compensated, nor were they aware during the tunnel’s construction that their private plots would become unusable when water flows through it. They claim to our portal that they have suffered significant damages amounting to tens of thousands of marks, which are crucial for their livelihoods.

The leadership of HET itself acknowledges that the tunnel’s construction caused damage to the parcels, as evidenced by numerous agreements they have signed with the owners of the submerged fields.

“The subject of this Agreement is compensation for the damage caused to the land, which resulted from the construction of the tunnel Fatnica Field – Bileća reservoir,” among other things, is stated in the mentioned agreements.

According to expert estimates, the annual income per dunum was between 3,000 and 5,000 KM, depending on the cultivated crop.

One of the numerous agreements between HET and the affected parcel owners

Owners Found Out Later the Extent of the Damage

The owner of a parcel in Fatnica Field, Neđo Popara, says that before the mentioned construction, he harvested abundant crops of grains and vegetables on his fields in Fatnica Field. Now, he receives an annual compensation in the form of rent, which is nowhere near its true value. He explains that he signed an agreement to surrender the land in ignorance and did not understand what would happen to his field. He was unaware that he would permanently lose the field that sustained him, and that he would receive compensation annually equivalent to a third of the average monthly salary.

“They gave me a symbolic rent of about 400 marks per year for six dunums of land, as if Fatnica Field were a pasture and infertile soil, not a field that yielded a harvest worth between 10,000 and 15,000 KM, which my family and I relied on. They had us sign agreements we didn’t understand, nor did they inform us of our rights here. That’s why we decided to sue them and seek justice in court. My field no longer exists, and that compensation is nowhere near my loss,” says Popara.

For those landowners whose fields are submerged and washed away when the tunnel opens, this company hasn’t paid anything. As a result, some of them have decided to sue and demand expert assessments, because even though the pipeline doesn’t pass through their land, the water from the reservoir has destroyed their fields.

According to the owners’ claims, HET only acquired a portion of the land along the path where the tunnel and pipeline run, and that was at a lump sum price of 8.60 KM. The owners assert that they were deceived and only found out later that their land is worth much more, and that the damage inflicted covers a far larger area than the space occupied by the tunnel.

Offering subsequent repurchase, HET proposed prices of 8.60 KM per square meter of land to some owners, but they rejected this and believe that the market price, which is at least twice as high, should be offered to them. The owners claim that HET refuses to conduct expert assessments and allow relevant appraisers to determine the actual value of the land. However, the court has acted appropriately by ordering expert assessments to establish the true land value.

Court’s Proposal to Conduct Expert Assessment on the Land

Was the Tunnel Not Properly Built?

Similar issues arise on Zoran Ivković’s land in Dabarsko Polje. His family owns five plots of land in this area, but they receive a rent of only 150 marks per year for one of them. For the other four plots, they don’t receive anything because there is a crack on a neighboring plot, which, according to the owner, served as an excuse, claiming that the land naturally cracked there.

The crack on the field in Dabarsko Polje

“That tunnel is built too low and drains the soil into Fatničko Polje. I don’t know if they planned it that way, but they have caused significant damage that they haven’t compensated people for. Many have decided to file lawsuits, including my family. We’ll see how the situation develops after the expert examination and valuation,” Ivković stated.

The tunnel constructed by HET

At the request for fair compensation and indemnity, HET has remained firm in their stance. In response to the request to adjust the compensation amount, filed in court in Trebinje by their lawyer, they stated that they stick to their offer, which amounts to 8.60 BAM per square meter of land, regardless of its class and the crops grown there.

“It is noted that the attorney for the previous co-owners does not agree with the offered compensation for the expropriated land by the expropriation user and proposes that an appraisal be carried out in this proceeding regarding the price of the expropriated land or subject, and the administrative matter be forwarded to the competent court for further proceedings,” the minutes from the trial stated.

Din Tešić, provided photo

Din Tešić, a lawyer whose office specializes in procedures related to property appraisals and expropriations, says that the user of the real estate, Mješoviti holding “ERS” – MP a.d. Trebinje, ZP “Hidroelektrana na Trebišnjici” a.d. Trebinje, with their tunnel works at the Fatničko Polje site, caused infertility of a portion of the field used as a reserve water reservoir, which is then released into the Bilećko Lake as needed for electricity production.

The price has remained the same for 16 years

“We represent a larger number of clients in the expropriation process of land around the tunnel, where we oppose the offered price of 8.60 BAM per square meter of land. This price has not been adjusted since 2008 and is unacceptable when considering the obvious inflation that has led to a multiple increase in the prices of all goods and services in the last 16 years. I should note that in the Bileće area, infertile land is valued at 10 BAM per square meter for our clients,” says Tešić.

One of the parcels that became unusable for cultivation after the tunnel was built

He further explains that only some landowners receive an unfair annual compensation calculated for the loss of hay collection, which concerns fertile arable land made infertile by HET’s works.

“They cannot use this fact to pay reduced damages to the victims, claiming that it is pastureland, not first-class arable land suitable for planting all vegetable crops,” Tešić asserts.

We sought the opinion of HET on this matter, but they have not responded by the time of completing this text.

It is emphasized that the first objective appraisal for the Fatničko Polje site is expected by the end of this month. During the proceeding, the expropriation user, through its representative, the RS Attorney General’s Office, refused to conduct the appraisal, so they had to request the court to order it.

“Some of our clients whose land is not being expropriated but are suffering the consequences due to the inability to use their land are filing lawsuits because they have real annual losses ranging from three to five thousand marks per hectare of arable land, as they cannot grow any agricultural crops of vegetables or grains that used to thrive before the tunnel was built,” Tešić explains.

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