Residents of the Strpce municipality, both Serbs and Albanians, have been protesting for months against the construction of a mini hydroelectric power plants in this municipality. The “Matkos Group” continues with the construction, while the locals want to preserve the nature of the national park they live in.
Approximately two hundred Serbs and Albanians, with the support of GAIA members from a dozen countries around the world, organized another protest yesterday. The protest took place in the areas of Durlov Potok and Berevacki Potok (potok – “mountain spring”) located within the National Park of the Sara Mountain.
„They want to usurp two streams, tributaries of the Lepenac river located at the Ski Center, at 1700 meters above sea level, which are an attraction in Sara and they also supply the drinking water sources,“ a local resident, Ivan Milosavljevic told KoSSev on Sunday.
The construction has been underway for some time and plenty of damage has already been done – they stressed.
The protestors underlined that the works being carried out are illegal because they are executed in the national park area, while the competent institutions are remaining silent.
Locals emphasized they know that „one stone cannot be moved“ in a national park. They complain that the company used bulldozers to dig through the streams from which the locals get their drinking water, which soon caused the water to turn brown.
„In this area, no paper means anything, since the Sar Mountain belongs to the international community of national parks and without their consent, there is no chance that they could get a permit,“ Milosavljevic said.
However, he added that he is aware „nothing can be done“ because „laws are being violated.“
“The Water Law signed by Mr. Jakup Krasniqi, and in particular the administrative instruction signed by Mr. Ferid Agani, clearly specifies what can and what cannot be done – item number five explicitly states which zones, in this case Durlov Potok, cannot be part of such project. We are wondering who is bigger than the law, what kind of society we will live in if the law is not obeyed, it leads to chaos and system collapse,“ one of the participants of the latest protest, Stojan Joksimovic told KoSSev.
Protesters managed to shortly suspend the construction yesterday, however, after the protest ended, the machines, accompanied by local police, were returned and construction continued.
The protesters will have a meeting today at the Ministry of the Environment, but they do not have high expectations.
„We will fight as much as we can, but this looks like a quixotic fight with windmills,“ Milosavljevic told KoSSev.
Ministry’s response to complaints about the construction of MHPP in the national park: We do not have enough guards
The Kosovo Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning reacted with a statement after the protest ended. They said that ministry is ready to react against illegal activities in the national park, but they do not have “enough guards.”
“As far as the Sara National Park is concerned, we have a Directorate for National Parks within which the guards are employed, but there is only a few of them, which is why we asked the Assembly of Kosovo to approve the employment of at least 25 additional guards. Unfortunately, we did not receive the support of the MPs. As a ministry, we also invest in this park. When it comes to the construction of a hydroelectric power plant in the park, we can say that as a ministry we will intervene in accordance with the law if illegal activities occur,“ the ministry wrote in a statement, Pristina-based Koha reported.
The same ministry also previously reacted to the issue of the construction of a mini hydroelectric power plan in the Strpce region. Kosovo Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, Fatmir Matoshi said that he could not overrule the decision on the construction as he encountered such a situation when he was assigned to his post. Matoshi also claimed he has no authority to do anything about it because “construction companies have the necessary documentation” to build the mini power plants.
According to data presented in the Environmental Impact Assessment Report prepared by the Metkos Group from Pristina – which is in charge of the construction of hydroelectric power plants in the village of Donja Bitina along the Lepenac and at the Obe Reke site along the Kaludjerka and Bolovanka rivers, they plan to build five mini hydroelectric power plants along the Lepenac River: hydroelectric power plant Sara, hydroelectric power plant Brezovica, hydroelectric power plant Vic, hydroelectric power plant Brod and hydroelectric power plant Strpce.
In addition to the Donja Bitinja and the Obe Reke site, citizens of Strpce also protested in front of the Strpce municipal building. They also contacted central institutions, but the construction on the power plants still continued. Construction sites are regularly secured by the police and several clashes occurred between protesters and police so far.
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