The Neretvica, a tributary to Neretva will remain free flowing. In its basin the Public Company Elektroprivreda Bosne i Hercegovine, planned to build 15 small hydroelectric power plants, which would have irreversibly destroyed the river ecosystem. The local population strongly opposed these plans, and after a three-and-a-half-year active struggle, we are now witnessing a positive outcome and a great triumph for the united citizens of the Neretva Valley and their friends and allies from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The citizen’s association Aarhus Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina was leading the legal team of the "Neretvica - Pusti me da tečem" (meaning Neretvica – Let me flow) movement in the fight to save the Neretvica River. They provided free legal aid to individuals, informal groups and citizen associations. On May 25th of the current year, they received an official response from Elektroprivreda Bosne i Herzegovine. The response states: "The concession contract for small hydroelectric power plants in the Neretvica River basin has been terminated, resulting in the halting of all activities related to the construction of small hydroelectric power plants on the Neretvica River by Elektroprivreda BiH d.d. Sarajevo."
This development occurred after the "Neretvica - Pusti me da tečem " (meaning Neretvica – Let me flow) movement initiated a series of administrative and appellate procedures. Also intense PR activities on the streets, in the media, and on social networks were launched. The activities resulted in the revocation of practically all permits and approvals for the construction of small hydroelectric power plants on the Neretvica River. Successively, construction permits, water and environmental permits were being revoked, and finally also the concession contract has been affected.
From the very beginning of the fight, the guardians of the Neretvica river have been emphasizing that the permits and approvals relied upon by the investor and contractors are illegal and unlawful, a fact that has been confirmed by subsequent court rulings and decisions of institutions.
One of the defining aspects of the fight to save the river has been the magnificent protest gatherings that physically prevented the commencement of construction works on the respective small hydroelectric power plants (mHE). There were a total of four such gatherings, with the one on June 14, 2021, standing out. On that day, more than 700 citizens came together to stand in front of heavy machinery. Once again, they made it clear: "Forget about the construction of small hydroelectric power plants on the Neretvica River!"
The citizens of the Neretvica Valley have announced to celebrate the victory on August 13th at the Lukšijski Most bathing area.
However, there are still two remaining steps until the final victory: the dismissal of the criminal charges filed by JP Elektroprivreda BiH against citizens for participating in the protest, and the removal of small hydroelectric power plants from the Spatial Plan of the city of Konjic.
The fight to save the Neretvica has demonstrated that united citizens can bring change even within the arguably one of the most complex legal and administrative-political systems in the world. The victory on the Neretvica River goes beyond the preservation of a beautiful river. It has restored hope to all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a hope that seemed to have been lost. It has also proven the value of fighting for our common natural resources. These resources, initially intended for investor enrichment, are now recognized as worth protecting in the face of the global climate crisis.