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Hydroelectric projects on Vrbas River, BiH

The biggest successful environmental campaign in Bosnia and Herzegovina to date. Started in late 2004 and was active until late 2005, when campaign was backed up by local parliament decision.


Government of Republic of Srpska (RS) in 2004 planned to make 2 hydro power plants (HPP) on Vrbas River, 15 and 25 kilometres upstream of Banja Luka. Public got information in late October 2004, about 5 days before Parliament of RS had to take decision on the project. Few NGOs decided to inform the public about possible impacts and in 3 days managed to collect more than 5500 signatures of Banja Luka citizens, with the goal to postpone Parliament's decision, but without success. In November 2004, the Government signed the concession contract with company HES Vrbas. In the same time, about 10 local NGOs established Coalition for Vrbas River Protection, that grew up to 36 NGOs in 2005. Soon after the contract was signed, the Coalition started to collect signatures for local referendum on this issue, and managed to reach almost 20 000 signatures in city of about 200 000 inhabitants. This was enough to push the Parliament of Banja Luka to take position against the projects in 2005. After that, both Government of RS and the company HES Vrbas withdrew their plans, as people and local government spoke against the project.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Hydroelectric projects on Vrbas River, BiH
Country:Bosnia and Herzegovina
State or province:Republic of Srpska
Location of conflict:Banja Luka
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict: 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict: 2nd level :Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details:

Two HPPs

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Level of Investment:187,017,000
Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:5000 - 250 000
Start of the conflict:01/11/2004
End of the conflict:29/09/2015
Company names or state enterprises:HES Vrbas from Slovenia
Gradjevinar from Serbia
Viaduct from Slovenia
Relevant government actors:Parliament of Republic of Srpska, Government of Republic of Srpska, Ministry of Industry, Energy and Mining, Ministry of Spatial Planning, Civil Engineering and Ecology
International and Finance InstitutionsMBB UWS Energy GmbH (MBB) from Germany
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Centar za zivotnu sredinu / Friends of the Earth Bosnia and Herzegovina (and Coalition for Vrbas River Protection, that includes more than 30 NGOs from Banja Luka).
Conflict and Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Local ejos
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Development of a network/collective action
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts of the project
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactshealth impacts of respiratory system
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Strengthening of participation
Project cancelled
Withdrawal of company/investment
Development of alternatives:Coalition for Vrbas River Protection before the agreement was signed proposed to be made comprehensive analysis of all potential of Vrbas River canyons, that were planed to be flooded. Proposal was to assess potentials other than energy, including tourism, water supply, biodiversity services, etc.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Yes
Briefly explain:We consider this as en environmental justice success to a large extent, although public participation tools are still not functional and the compensation request of the company is still under evaluation.
Sources and Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Hydro Power Potential in the Sava River Basin, Prepared by Milica Djuric-ICPDR Secretariat
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

HEW VRBAS Company's page on the project
[click to view]

Vrbas River Canyon is safe – what to do next?
[click to view]

Victory against big hydro in Bosnia and Herzegovina
[click to view]

The ‘Blue Heart of Europe’ beats in the Balkans, by Amelie Huber (ENTITLE BLOG)
[click to view] (Euronatur and RIverswatch), Outstanding Balkan River landscapes – a basis for wise development decisions
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Fiumi di Bosnia: la Vrbas (with English subtitles)
[click to view]

Other documents

Canyon of Vrbas river
[click to view]

Street march for free flowing Vrbas
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:miodrag dakic, Centar za zivotnu sredinu, [email protected], +387 51 433 142
Last update19/10/2015
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