The fight to save rivers is heating up in Eastern Europe.
Last week, river defenders in Bosnia and Herzogovina scaled the face of a failed dam on the Bašćica River and transformed it into a rallying cry for the pro-river movement. Campaigners from across the country painted a huge mural on the dam to protest the over 300 planned hydroelectric dams in the region. The image shows a giant woman – whose hands clutch a sledgehammer raised over her head – preparing to smash the dam.
Beside her, a message: “Sloboda Rijekama!” Free the rivers.
It was an audacious action, and the latest salvo in a concerted campaign to save the country’s rivers. The dam chosen by the artists and activists symbolizes, for many locals, how humans have failed to understand and protect the natural environment.
The Idbar Dam was built in 1959 in the valley below Prenj Mountain, Konjic, to stop gravel going into the nearby Jablanica Lake. Locals warned that a dam wasn’t a good idea because the river was dangerous and fast-flowing, but developers didn’t listen. But the water resisted humans’ idea of taming it: The dam cracked soon after its construction, which could have had catastrophic consequences. Idbar Dam was decommissioned soon after it opened, wasting both time and money, but allowing the Bašćica River to flow freely again.
Now locals are playing the part of Cassandra yet again, warning that the onslaught of small hydropower projects planned for Bosnia and Herzogovina – over 300 in all – will cause untold devastation to biodiversity and water quality in the country.
The Coalition for the Protection of Rivers, representing over 20 organisations in Bosnia & Herzegovina, are calling for dam building to stop and for development to be focused on tourism and traditional activities.
“As the Bašćica River is free, we want all the rivers to be free. There are currently many battles against hydropower plants and local communities directly dependent on these rivers are ready to defend them by all means. Rivers are a common good, not the property of individuals. Putting private interests over the public by authorities should stop. This is a unified fight!” said from the Coalition for the Protection of Rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
See the action in process below:
The Coalition for the Protection of River of Bosnia and Herzegovina was founded in June 2016 by nature lovers, individuals and organizations. They are monitoring and reviewing plans for the construction of hydropower plants and advocating for the development of tourism, traditional and complementary activities that can provide more diverse jobs and greater development for local communities. The Coalition brings together over 20 organizations from all over Bosnia and Herzegovina.