Last week, two conferences about construction of SHPP – economic justification, rule of law and protection of natural resources were held in Zlatibor and Niš by the Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
These events brought together over 70 participants – civil sector activists, environmental inspectors and local government employees. Through dialogue between public administration, civil society and the professional public, RERI has raised the issue of resolving perceived problems and participation of local communities in environmental decision-making processes.
The construction of small hydropower plants (SHPP) in the last 10 years has not contributed significantly to the share of renewables in gross final energy consumption, but it has led to the destruction of natural resources, endangering the rule of law, conflicts between local people and investors and denying local communities the right to decide on sustainable development. Almost as a rule, conflicts between the investors and local activists were preceded by flaws in the construction permit process, or illegal actions by investors.
- Non-existence and/or failure to comply with the plan basis is a failure on the construction of SHP “Jaruga” on the river Nera near Bela Crkva, where the construction of SHP is performed in a completely different location than the one for which the building permit was issued.
- The plan for the construction of the SHP “Ravni” on the Pristavica River near Uzice explicitly states that “the engagement of this water land for any purpose (except for the direct protection of the watercourses itself) is excluded“.
- Several regulations were violated while issuing a construction permit for SHP “Zvonce” in Rakita. The environmental impact assessment was neglected, based on incomplete documentation, a resolution for not initiating the impact assessment was made.
- Two years from the validity of the construction permits for SHP “Topli Dol 1” Topli Do, Pirot and SHP “Rastovnica” near Prokuplje, the works on these SHPs havent started. In these cases, construction permits were terminated. For more details on the procedures that RERI has initiated to put those licenses out of force, read here.
- Incomplete documentation accompanies the construction of the Čitluk SHP in Sokobanja, SHP Zvonce in Rakita and SHPP in Panjica, where a construction permit has not even been issued.
At the conference, the research of economic analyst Damir Miljevic “Analysis of the economic justification of concession fees and incentives for small hydropower plants on the territory of the Republic of Serbia” was presented as well as the findings of RERI on abuse of public authority and violation of regulations in the process of permitting and construction of SHPP. The Institute for Nature Conservation of the Republic of Serbia presented recommendations for the protection of nature and natural resources.
Representatives of RERI pointed to cases of abuse of public authority and violation of regulations related to the construction of 12 SHPs in Serbia. Deficiencies and violations of regulations have been identified, which cannot be considered accidental, but rather systemic abuse of public authority. RERI cited the lack of legal and political accountability of public authorities, weak or non-existent control
mechanisms and incentive system for investors in SHPs, which do not contribute to the public good but provide material benefits to a small number of interested investors. Therefore, the abolition of incentives for the production of electricity from small hydropower plants should be the first step in the defense of the public interest. The RERI survey in Serbian is available here.
Through this activity, RERI and WWF sought to expose the problem of small hydropower construction on the basis of facts and proven research, in this way, RERI seeks to contribute to the conservation of natural resources, the protection of the right to a healthy environment and the rights of local communities to sustainable development, as well as the permanent abolition of the existing model of incentives for the production of electricity from small hydropower plants by benefits that do not have economic and social justification.
Through such and similar conferences, RERI strives, first and foremost, to enhance the accountability of unreliable and irresponsible authorities that can contribute to the protection of natural resources through their actions, but by not doing so and misusing their authority, they threaten the implementation of regulations and encourage the spread of corruption, which can ultimately lead to the initiation of judicial proceedings against responsible persons.
Conferences in Zlatibor and Nis were organized with the support of the EURONATUR Foundation, the Open Society Foundation and CRTA.