Dam in Jablaničko Lake, Bosnia and Herzegovina. By Julian Nitzsche [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

This article was originally published on Yale Environment 360


The Balkan Peninsula, one of Europe’s most undeveloped regions, is facing a wave of thousands of hydroelectric projects that would block pristine, free-flowing rivers and cause major environmental damage. Local residents and conservationists are fighting back.

Day and night, visitors to the mountain village of Kruščica in central Bosnia and Herzegovina — a speck on the map about 40 miles west of Sarajevo — encounter local women sentinels. The women have set up camp on the left bank of the Kruščica River in front of a narrow, rough-hewn wooden bridge, above which hangs a Bosnian flag and banners that declare “Bridge of the Brave Women of Kruščica” in Bosnian and “River No Dam” in English.

Visitors may pass or even stop to drink a silty Turkish coffee with the village women, who obligingly tell of their campaign to stop the construction of a dam and hydroelectric power plant on the Kruščica, a gently cascading highland waterway enveloped in pine forest. The Kruščica women and other opponents of the dam say it would disfigure the river, upend its ecosystem, and flood pristine forest.

“It’s the soul of our community,” says village mayor Tahira Tibold, noting that the Kruščica not only provides the community’s drinking water, but also contributes to the water supply of nearby cities — and is thus protected by Bosnian law. “We knew nothing about [the dam] until last summer, and then one day engineers showed up.” The village inquired and found that the municipal government — in violation of several laws — had approved the construction of the dam and two small power plants. The investors were a Sarajevo-based businessman and a local financier…”

Read on at: Yale Environment 360.