Kruščica standing its ground

More than 2000 people participated in the initiative and fights for their rights. The lawsuit against investor is won and the construction of two small hydropower plants (of the 4 planned) has been prohibited.

People

2

Money

EUR 40 000

Time

3 years

Organization

Eko Bistro

Country

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Location

Vitez Municipality, Kruščica Local community

Protection level

Project example
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Achievements
  • the second spontaneous citizens' initiative to prevent the construction and to change the Central Bosnia Canton (SBK) government’s decision on the modification of the SBK Spatial Plan (after Gotuša/Fojnica)
  • the River Protection Coalition of Bosnia and Herzegovina organized the protests to support Kruščica with more than 300 attendees and sent a message of unity in the struggle for the preservation of the Kruščica river
  • petition with more than 800 signatures
  • since 2 August 2017 (345 days), the population of Kruščica kept a round-the-clock watch (women during the day, men in the evening) over the only bridge that leads to the construction site in order to prevent the construction of hydropower plants
  • the women were charged with violating public order and peace and assaulting a police officer for having blocked the bridge – the court dismissed the charges against the women of Kruščica
  • the perseverance of the people – despite the brutal reaction of the police, the locals kept on blocking the bridge
  • the Eko Bistro association was founded (supporters of Kruščica will soon be allowed to become members)
  • former representatives of the local community that approved the construction of hydropower plant have been removed from duty
  • more than 600 people participated in the local community assembly
  • for the first time, national representatives of the majority peoples of B&H, women and the Roma community are represented equally in the newly established governing body of the local community
  • a non-violent attempt of the Special Police forces to unblock the bridge was prevented
  • the lawsuit filed against the investor for non-compliance with the urban and environmental permit issuance procedure was successful and the construction of two small hydropower plants (of the 4 planned) has been prohibited – the court's decision on re-trial is still to be announced.
  • numerous publications in the national and international media brought awareness to the public of the possible damaging consequences of the SHP construction
  • numerous organizations and initiatives have shown their support

Problem/opportunity

Problem you wish to solve
  • the construction of 4 small-scale hydropower plants on the Kruščica River
  • the local population’s access to water is jeopardized – the water supply system for the town of Zenica (about 100,000 people) relies on the Kruščica river source and there is no water supply in the village
  • the possibility of declaring and establishing a protected area is compromised
  • preventing activities on the development of sustainable activities along the river – tourism
  • the public was not involved in the decision-making
  • non-transparent operation of the local community governing body, local authorities and investors
  • violation of legal procedures with regard to the environmental permit issuance
  • modified Spatial Plan to which the SHPs were subsequently added
Opportunities you wish to seize
  • Aarhuška konvencija – pristup informacijama
  • Zakon o slobodi pristupa informacijama
  • Zakon o zaštiti okoliša – učešće u procesu izdavanja dozvola i komentiranje studije utjecaja na okoliš (dokaza uz zahtjev za okolinsku dozvolu)
  • Slučaj Gotuša iz susjedne općine Fojnica. Sličan problem i inicijativa uspješno okončana uz pomoć WWF-a i CZZS-a – preporučili im svog odvjetnika

Planning

Pre-requisites for success

Legal

  • Aarhus Convention – access to information
  • The Environmental Protection Act – participation in the permit issuance procedure and commenting on environmental impact studies (evidence accompanying the environmental permit application)
  • The Gotuša case from the neighboring Fojnica Municipality. A similar problem and the initiative ended successfully with the help of WWF and CZZS – recommended their own attorney

Institutional

  • Government of the Central Bosnia Canton (Line Ministry)
  • Vitez Municipal Council (Spatial Plan of the Municipality)
  • Peaceful protests in front of the Vitez town hall Involvement of international organizations

The local population:

Strengthening the internal capacities of the local initiative (Eko Bistro association – Kruščica, Kruščica Local Community and informal Women's Group Kruščica):

  • Locals will picket until they get firm guarantees, i.e. court decisions to prohibit the construction of the SHP.
  • 35 women injured while blocking the bridge
  • Petition – 817 locals signed the petition for obtaining power of attorney for the represented parties.
  • Around 2000 people participated in the daytime vigil. What success requires: an attorney, a biologist, spatial planner, media communication

Implementation

Project key stages
  • problem mapping (allies and opposing groups)
  • demonstrations and continuous blockades of pathways for machines intended for the construction of the hydropower plant (influenced by the experience with Gotuša, where the police attacked the men protesting; women were placed in the first row because they thought it would prevent conflicts between the men and the police, unfortunately, 35 women were injured)
  • creation of the platform for the purpose of active participation of the locals in development planning – Eko Bistro association
  • analysis of legal processes and options (hired the attorney with previous success in the Gotuša case)
  • networking and involvement of individuals and organizations of the River Protection Coalition
  • protests directed at decision makers
  • submission of the request to reopen the procedure of issuing permits and public involvement
  • filing a lawsuit against the competent Ministry due to its refusal to repeat the procedure based on “active legitimation” of the local representatives
  • continuously soliciting decision makers, key organizations and individuals
  • continuous communication with the media
Vulnerable groups involvement

All the population living in the area of Kruščica which was not consulted were shown how to exercise their right to participate in decision making

  • population from 15 to 80 years of age, most locals unemployed, around 30-40 women and 50 men actively participating in all shifts
  • around 120 Roma households participated since the beginning and got involved in the actions, and have a representative in the local community

Change

Positive effects on environment

The construction of the hydropower plants was stopped and thus the natural processes were retained.

The existing state and quality of the river Kruščica habitats was preserved!

Increased awareness of the natural and cultural heritage of the area.

Future development projects will have to be planned with the participation of the locals who want to plan the development in a sustainable way.

Positive economic and social changes

In relation to the public sector (local, cantonal)

Society: change in the authority bodies of the local community. Previous authority body did not react to illegal felling and excluded locals from decision making.

The administration’s attitude on the issue of participation of the population in decision making still only revolves around contention. 16 local communities of the Central Bosnia Canton function well, with the exception of Kruščica.

In relation to the business sector:

Society: local business operators recognize the significance of Kruščica, as well as the importance of involving the local population in the efforts, and they support the initiative through donations

Lumber mills are the largest economic operators.

Of the local population:

Society: collaboration and unity of the local population, representatives in the local community council.

Replication and recommendations

Recommendations

Take an active part in the social processes of the local community and introduce control measures regarding the work of elected representatives.

Insist on pursuing the demands made to local authorities.

Consultation with experts and mimicking successful examples from other parts of the country.

President of the local community in contact with the attorney.

A model is needed for the purpose of accelerating the court proceedings.

Address all possible levels of government and international bodies in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Involve the media from the very beginning.

Use the potentials of sustainable areas (tourism, local produce)

Sustainability

Jačanje kapaciteta udruženja i mjesne zajednice i transparentnost rada.

Kontinuirano ukazivanje na vrijednosti rijeka/prirode i na potencijal za održivi razvoj.

Uključivanje što većeg broja mladih ljudi u rad MZ-a i udruženja.

Aktivno praćenje pravnih procesa i provedbe zakonodavnih okvira.

Donošenje i provedba strategije razvoja i plana rada MZ-a i udruženja.

Identificiranje prioritetnih problema i rješavanje istih.

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