Activists in Serbia get hands-on in fight against hydropower

In the Stara Planina region, residents from the village of Rakita have joined forces with conservationists to damage the pipes of a hydropower plant under construction - an act which sends out a powerful message.

Many people with picks and shovels in and by a creek

Despite summer thunderstorms, more than 500 people came together in Rakita to defy the hydropower lobby. This made it one of the largest acts of civil disobedience of its kind in Serbia.

© Jovan Đerić

Flowing through the south of Serbia is the Rakitska River, along the course of which, close to the village of Rakita, a Serbian energy company has built a hydropower plant without official permission. For a long time, the local population has been protesting against the project and, on Saturday 15 August, more than 500 people from Rakita joined forces with others from all over Serbia to damage the illegally laid pipes which lead to the Zvonce power plant. "If the government won’t do its job and enforce the law, we will", said one of the activists. At the end of the day, several breaks were visible in the pipeline leading to the power plant. The campaign received media attention across Europe.

"The brave resistance of the activists is sending out an important message: People are no longer willing to put up with this and are rising up against the frequently unlawful activities of the energy companies," said Tobias Frischmann, project leader at EuroNatur. In Serbia alone, more than 870 hydropower installations, mainly small hydropower plants, are planned. Many are scheduled to be built in protected areas. Ulrich Eichelmann, CEO of Riverwatch, said: “The Zvonce power plant has become a symbol of resistance in Serbia - and now also the entire Balkan region - against the excessive expansion of hydropower. As a result of this action, there is renewed hope for the Blue Heart of Europe."

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