Works on the construction of hydropower plants in Kosovo will be suspended, as will permits for the construction of new ones, announced the Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Environment, Avni Zogiani.
Zogiani said in an interview with KTV that the previous government had granted permits in violation of the law, acknowledging that Kel-Kos had caused extensive damage to the environment in the Decani municipality.
Zogiani was in Bitinja in Strpce on Tuesday, where a hydroelectric power plant is also being built, and after that visit, the Matkos Group announced that it would send Kosovo to arbitration in London if it continued to disrupt energy investments in Kosovo, KTV reports.
The deputy minister said that this reaction shows that something is wrong.
Koha reports that Deputy Minister Bitini’s visit „raised hope“ for citizens in the Decani municipality, where three hydropower plants operate.
The Government of Kosovo on Wednesday appointed the Secretary of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environmental Protection, Izedin Bytyqi instead of Arben Çitaku.
Chitaku, who for many years was also secretary at the Ministry of the Environment, has issued all disputed permits for the construction of hydroelectric power plants in Kosovo.
Residents of the village of Donja Bitinja in the Štrpce municipality again protested on Wednesday against the construction of hydropower plants along the Lepenac River.
There are 14 mini hydropower plants in Kosovo and 21 others at various stages of construction, Koha recalls.
For almost two years now the residents of the Strpce municipality have been actively protesting against the construction of mini hydroelectric power plants in this municipality and the territory of the Shara Mountain National Park. Both ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians have been fighting against the construction of MHPPs, describing this issue as a burning problem for Sirinicka Parish.
The residents fear that they will run out of water, which recently happened in one of the villages, when an excavator hit an underground water vein in the multiethnic Donja Bitinja village. They also emphasized that approximately 2,500 Strpce residents are currently using technical water from the Kaludjerka River, which is not suitable „for drinking, despite such a beautiful and healthy environment.“
The beds of the small tributaries of the Lepenac river are being expanded, which causes them to dry up, and MHPPs are not being shut down even when the water levels decrease during the drier months.
Strpce residents fear that their survival is jeopardized, as the construction of the MHPPs continues despite violations of Kosovo laws – all with the support of the former Ministry of Environment and Kosovo Police. Furthermore, according to the testimony of the locals, the Kosovo police have repeatedly used excessive force to disperse protesting locals.
Based on a 2013 decision by the Kosovo Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, the contractor – the Matkos Group – has so far constructed three mini hydroelectric power plants on the Lepenac, and a fourth facility above Strpce – at the very border point of the Shara National Park. The locals claim that, instead of the two initial facilities, there are plans to construct seven of them. They also warned that works are underway on the tributaries of the Lepenac in the Shara National Park, which are also sources of drinking water.
Road construction is underway as well. Apart from the ruined nature, private properties are also under attack.
The Ombudsman recommended the suspension of the construction and recently opened an investigation into allegations of excessive use of force at one of the protests.
A campaign to collect signatures against the construction of MHPPs was also organized throughout Kosovo. Following a petition from locals, which contained approximately 2,500 signatures, a petition launched by CSOs was signed by approximately 27,000 citizens. According to residents, however, the municipality of Strpce remains silent on the issue.
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