May 19, 2019 - About 200 villagers in the valley of the Bukovica River and its surroundings, citizens from other Montenegrin regions and civil activists yesterday from the shore of the endangered river ordered the authorities to annul concessions for the construction of two SHPPs (two small hydroelectric power plants). Citizens have said that they will not give up the defence of the river and that they will not let investors build.
The local population again demonstrated the determination not to allow the placement of a river in the pipeline for the needs of SHPPs, which should be built by the cousin of the country's president, Milo Djukanovic, and his partner.
Citizens have been daily on the defence of the Bukovica River for several days. The protest began when, despite the opposition of the locals, works started on access roads, and, as it turned out, through the private property of the Zekovic family, for which there is no permit. The local population reacted quickly and prevented further works, but also alerted the public about the violence of investors, and announced the continuation of the day-long guards.
SHPPs in Montenegro - the violation of European and international conventions
The Green House NGO handed over a petition to the Montenegrin parliament on May 15 for asking for a moratorium on the construction of mini-hydroelectric power plants on the rivers in Montenegro. Green home Executive Director Nataša Kovacevic said they expect MPs to recognize the resentment of the citizens of Plav, Gusinje, Berane, Bijelo Polje, Niksic, Kolasin, Savnik and Andrijevica.
"The decades-long wild construction of energy facilities and the taking of water from the local population has to end," Kovacevic said in front of the parliament before the petition was submitted. She assessed that most of the current concessions for SHPPs were allocated without proper planning documents, strategic guidelines and precise data on potentials, as well as the impacts of the implementation of these projects on the environment.
Kovacevic said that in November last year the European Parliament assessed that most of the 80 SHPPs in Montenegro were not planned, nor were they built following international conventions and European legislation.
"The European Parliament requires the revision of all approved projects, concerning criteria of biodiversity value and necessarily implemented environmental impact assessments and citizens' participation in the decision-making process. Because of violations of European regulations and international conventions, there is a legal basis for all contracts to be terminated," Kovacevic said.
The petition is requested to stop further granting and renewal of energy permits based on requests already submitted, until a strategic environmental impact assessment of the cumulative effects of all approved SHPP projects is carried out.
By petition, citizens ask to initiate a judicial procedure for violation of the Law on Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment or non-implementation of a mandatory process for the development of a strategic impact assessment for a plan for the use of watercourses for the construction of small hydropower plants in Montenegro since 2016, but also due to the Law on Concessions.
NGO Green Home is Montenegrin partner within the Balkan network fighting against SHPPs- Balkan River Defence.
ODUPRISE Movement Calls for Action Against the SHPPs on Bukovica
"Citizens of the Savnik municipality, but also all those who are solidarity with them, for days prevent the passage of heavy machinery and keep a watch to preserve their greatest treasures - the river Bukovica. They are uprooting their estates, trails, and stagnant rivers, and they stand in the cold and say they will defend the river with life if necessary. Let's support them!" said the ODUPRISE movement.
"By the river, he came, who would be the next, family member - the cousin of the president from whom the citizens asked for their resignation three months ago. A cousin asked the local villagers if the river belongs to them. They usually think that everything in Montenegro, including our lives, is the property of only one man. This man, in their opinion, has the right to divide his feudal possessions among the family and not to look at the words of the locals.
As the citizens of Beranselo won for their water, citizens of the Bar got the justice for their Cyprus park, citizens of Zabljak for their Black Lake, so Savnik will also preserve its Bukovica. Problems in local communities are the problems of all of us because it is evident that this system works against the interests of citizens," said the ODRRISE movement.