Coalition 27: State Should Uphold Its Laws and Prevent Legalization of Zvonce

MHE Zvonce
Izgradnja MHE “Zvonce”, Rakita; Foto: Mile Nikolov / Facebook

For many years, as Coalition 27 has been monitoring environmental policies and protection, the absence of the rule of law has been growing. Both polluters and state institutions have been found to violate the laws, implement them inconsistently, and adopt various procedures only formally, ignoring their purpose – environmental and health protection. These practices are visible in all areas of environmental protection in Serbia, from air quality to water and waste management. They have been particularly common during the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a worrisome trend leading to endangering public goods, public health, and the security of people, their properties, and infrastructure in Serbia.

The latest example that shows the consequences of such practices happened in late June when the state road Arilje-Ivanjica was severely damaged due to floods. In the river Golijska Moravica, concrete piles belonging to the mini-hydropower plant “Brusnik” are protruding the water surface, despite the fact that this construction project was deemed unlawful, according to the analysis of the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute.

WWF Adria and Ecological group “Rzav” pointed out that raising the accumulation threshold and constructing these concrete piles had had significant consequences. It reduced the transverse profile of the riverbed, the river’s flowing power, and its currents. This also contributed to the depositing of drifting tree trunks in the riverbeds, causing whirlpools, increased sedimentation, and consequently, riverbank collapse. 

Mini-hydropower plant „Brusnik” is not the only example of the law-breaking practices – there is also the case of mini-hydropower plant “Zvonce”. According to the laws of the Republic of Serbia, this is an unlawfully built object, yet despite this fact, the powerplant obtained a working permit.

According to RERI, during the construction of “Zvonce,” a derivative pipeline was laid in the riverbed, despite being explicitly prohibited by the authorities. This way, the powerplant interrupted the natural flow of the Rakita river and caused landslides on the private properties of the inhabitants of Zvonce village.

A decree issued by the Ministry of the Environmental Protection ordered the investor to stop the construction process and return the terrain to the previous state, since the construction was not executed in accordance with the requirements of the Institute for Environmental Protection.

The subsequent analysis of the inspectors has shown that there is an active landslide on the right riverbank, while the vegetation on the left riverbank has been destroyed. The investor was obliged to act in accordance with the decree and his appeals could not postpone his obligation to act immediately.

Despite all these violations and bans issued by the authorities, as well as the consequences for the environment and the safety of people in the village Zvonce, on 24 June 2020, the municipality of Babušnica issued a working permit for the “Zvonce” powerplant.

Considering the great damages caused by the violations of laws, we’re asking from state institutions to uphold the rule of law and stop violations of environmental regulations. State institutions should set an example for others. So, we appeal to the Ministry of Construction, Transport, and Infrastructure to abrogate the municipal decision and prevent the legalization of the illegal object mini-hydropower plant “Zvonce”.

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