Energy policy could destroy the longest river in Bosnia and Herzegovina
WWF warns the public and the governments of Croatia and BiH of shortcomings regarding plans for the construction of new hydropower plants in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina (HPP Dubrovnik II, Upper Horizons project and HPP Ombla). The projects could have significant cross-border impacts and negative consequences for the entire basin and the delta of the Neretva and the local population living along the river.
“This is a very complex project with significant negative consequences for local people and nature in the downstream areas of Croatia and BiH. All these projects are essentially one large hydropower project that collects water from the catchment basin of the Trebišnjica and Neretva Rivers and diverts it to HPP Dubrovnik 2,” said Zoran Mateljak, local coordinator of the WWF in BiH.
For such a big project governments should have developed a Strategic Environmental Assessment. All these projects, ranging from the Upper Horizons project, which includes several hydropower plants, tunnels and canals in BiH, and HPP Dubrovnik 2 and underground HPP Ombla in Croatia, are actually one huge project which can have devastating social and environmental impacts if not properly approached and prepared. It would also be crucial to involve the wider community in the process.
According to the latest plans HPP Dubrovnik 2 requires that huge amounts of water are diverted from the Neretva and Trebišnjica basin – a quantity greater than the entire flow of the Neretva River in Mostar – which will have a drastic impact on the hydrology and ecology of the entire eastern part of Herzegovina and Mali Ston Bay all the way to the Neretva River Delta on the Croatian coast. If they go ahead these projects will result in the salinization of the Neretva Delta and the complete disappearance of agricultural production in the region. This will also cause the drying up of the Hutovo Blato nature park, a wetland and one of the largest habitats of migratory birds in the Balkans. The flow of the Neretva River would also be affected with unpredictable consequences for fish stocks in the river.
It is interesting that these projects are being pushed for before adoption of the “Neretva and Trebišnjica River Basin Management Plan”, although both countries are involved in its preparation. The development of the Management Plan is co-financed by both countries and the World Bank (GEF) and should lay the foundation for the management of these transboundary water resources.
“If Croatia does not consider the survival and preservation of the Neretva River Delta, a number of binding international conventions on the protection of the world's natural resources - eight in total, including the Ramsar Convention – are being violated. National legislation on nature protection and the environment is also being ignored, and the rights of local people are threatened” said Irma Popovic Dujmovic from the WWF Mediterranean Zagreb office. “The basic provisions of the Water Framework Directive, those of achieving good status of water and stopping further deterioration of rivers, are not being taken into account. The Neretva is directly threatened by this project.” she concludes.
“Agricultural production in the valley of the Neretva River, which employs over 30,000 people, depends primarily on the Neretva.groundwater regime which supplies numerous streams, lakes and the Neretva itself. This is threatened by the proposed projects which could reduce the inflow of fresh water, especially in the summer. This will cause irreversible destruction and salinization of agricultural areas in the lower parts of the Neretva, transforming the area into a salt desert,” said Nebojsa Jerkovic, President of the Veterans` Cooperative Modro-Zelena from Croatia.
WWF calls upon the governments of Croatia and BiH to stop the planned projects until the joint Strategic Environmental Assessment of all planned projects has been developed, and the “Neretva and Trebišnjica River Basin Management Plan” has been completed and adopted. The success of these projects also depends on a positive assessment by the general public and European institutions. WWF will be appealing to these groups in the coming months in order to make a revision of the proposed projects.
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