Brave women of Kruščica win court case against dam construction

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The brave women of Kruščica have stood guard on the access bridge, 24 hours a day, for over 300 days, in order to prevent construction of a hydropower plant.

© Andrew Burr

Kruščica. A major court victory has been won by the Brave Women of Kruščica, a group of activists protecting their community and river from the threat of new dam construction. The cantonal court of Novi Travnik, Bosnia and Herzegovina, this week ruled that the environmental permit for dam construction on the Kruščica river should be annulled immediately, meaning that any further construction work on the proposed dam is illegal.

The small group of women from the village of Kruščica have stood guard on the access bridge, 24 hours a day, for over 300 days, in order to prevent construction, gaining them the moniker The Brave Women of Kruščica. Their struggle has been part of a feature-length documentary Blue Heart, which tells the three stories of people fighting to protect Europe’s last wild rivers from the threat of 3,000 proposed hydropower dams.  The documentary, produced by activist company Patagonia, premiered in March 2018 and has been screened at venues across Europe and as far as Japan, South America and Australia.  The film has been accompanied by a global petition telling international banks to stop investing in the destruction of the Blue Heart of Europe, in the Balkan Peninsula. The petition has so far gained over 110,000 signatures.

The court’s decision to annul the dam construction permit was made on the basis that none of the community affected by the dam proposal were invited to the obligatory public hearing or were even made aware of the outcome of the hearing. The next step in the women’s fight is to ask Minister Salkan Merdžanić to delete two concessions for dam construction on the Kruščica river. Until this happens, the women plan to keep guard of the bridge in case any illegal construction work takes place.

Tahira Mika Tibold, president of the local community of Kruščica, comments: “We are happy that the court has decided to annul the environmental permit. The international attention has definitely increased the pressure and contributed to this decision. However, while we celebrate this victory, we remain vigilant and will continue to defend the bridge as we know there is still a long way to go in protecting our river and community from dam investors.”

Jelena Ivanic, Centre for Environment, Bosnia & Herzegovina, comments: “This is a very important victory for Kruščica and all river fighters in Bosnia and Herzegovina, proving that change is possible and the power lies with people. Awareness is growing that these projects only benefit select individuals, and cause irreversible damage to local communities.

“We are sending a clear signal to Minister Salkan Merdžanić and to investors who plan hydropower plants on the river Kruščica to terminate the concessions and to give up on this project, because we will not give up and justice is on our side.”

Kruščica lawyer Bruno Božić, comments: “This decision gives me optimism that things are going in the right direction. We asked for the permission to be included in the public hearing and this is a strong step towards us gaining that position for any future decision-making, with proper and robust participation of citizens and environmentalists.”

Within the context of the campaign Save the Blue Heart of Europe for the protection of the rivers in the Balkans, the women of Kruščica receive international support. Ulrich Eichelmann, campaign coordinator at Riverwatch: “The women of Kruščica are heroine to me. Now it is up to the administration of the Central Bosnia Canton to put a final end to this disastrous project and cancel the concession of the powerplant. Only then will the women leave the bridge.” Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur: “A large proportion of hydropower projects in the Balkans is violating national and international legislation. The court decision that the women of Kruščica have achieved is further proof of this. We urgently call upon the EU commission to require from EU accession candidate countries that they abide by constitutional norms in regards to licensing procedures for large-scale infrastructure projects.”

Ryan Gellert, General Manager, EMEA, Patagonia, comments: “This ruling shows that, as concerned citizens from around the world, we can make our voices heard in support of local people working to protect their rivers and communities, and, together, we can help to influence pivotal decisions such as this. The larger battle is definitely not yet won as there is still a dam tsunami with over 3,000 destructive projects planned across the Balkans. However, local victories like this remind us of the power of grassroots action backed by broad public support.” 

Background information

  • This is a joint press release by Riverwatch, EuroNatur, and the Center of Environment
  • The Patagonia film ‘Blue Heart’ supports the campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”, which aims to protect the most valuable rivers in the Balkans from a dam tsunami of about 3,000 planned projects. The campaign is coordinated by the NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur and carried out together with partner organisations in the Balkan countries. In Bosnia & Herzegovina, the local partner is Center for Environment. Find more information at balkanrivers.net

 

Further information

Katharina Grund, press contact, EuroNatur

katharina.grund@euronatur.org, +49 7732 927210

Ulrich Eichelmann, Save the Blue Heart campaign coordinator, Riverwatch

ulrich.eichelmann@riverwatch.eu, +43 676 6621512

Jelena Ivanić, local Save the Blue Heart campaign coordinator in BiH, Center for Environment 

jelena.ivanic@czzs.org, +387/65779467

Louise Brierley-Ingham, PR manager, Patagonia Europe

Louise.b@patagonia.com, +31 613 344 608

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