Despite the months-long protests of the local residents, the “Metkos Group” is continuing with the construction of a mini hydroelectric power plant at the Obereka site, in the municipality of Strpce. Even though locals prevented the construction yesterday, this company, accompanied by the special police units from Urosevac and local police officers, resumed with construction today. More than 70 Strpce residents gathered in protest today. This time, however, they received a clear warning: „Anyone who approaches the machines will be arrested and prosecuted.“ According to the residents, this company did not have the necessary approval today to resume the construction.
„Anyone who approaches the machines will be arrested and prosecuted“
The representatives of the “Metkos Group” arrived to the Obereke site today to continue building the mini hydroelectric power plant accompanied by approximately twenty members of the Kosovo Police Special Unit and around fifteen local police officers. As in the previous months, the residents of Strpce – around seventy of them, gathered to prevent the construction. Today, however, they did not succeed in doing so, a resident of Strpce, Stojan Joksimovic told KoSSev.
The company again tried to continue construction only a few days after the Kosovo Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, Fatmir Matoshi said that he could not overrule the decision on the construction of several hydro-power plants in the Strpce region.
„The Special Police Unit SUVs arrived today at the site without any negotiation. And they told us that they had strict orders that anyone who approached the machines should be arrested and prosecuted,“ Joksimovic said, adding that Strpce residents reminded them that it was agreed „there would be no continuation of the construction until legal solutions are found“ during the last meeting on this topic.
Joksimovic stated that the Special Police Unit Commander told them that they have nothing against them, but that he would not allow them to approach the machines and stop the construction. Furthermore, the locals were told to contact their municipal officials, as they „have nothing to do with them now.“
„Outrage and a demonstration of force could be noticed here at the scene. And they told us to go our local officials and claimed that we have nothing do with them now. We tried to find some of our officials, but we did not manage to find anyone. As it happened, they all seem to be on vacation now,“ he explained.
Joksimovic also stated that this company did not have the necessary approval today to continue the construction.
„They have nothing, they received a memo, an e-mail from some director of urbanism. It is a proposal from Pristina – which is not authenticated or sealed,“ he added.
„The people are disappointed – the local officials are hiding, Serbia is silent“
Joksimovic assessed today’s police action as a demonstration of force. He underlined that there is no support from municipal officials and the state of Serbia.
„We saw a complete demonstration of force today and I am afraid that this will turn into a major problem, because the people are so disappointed that Serbia is not contacting us, or helping and giving a green light, nor are our superiors who are simply hiding. They say that they are standing with the people and no one will step out in front of the people. We are caught in an endless cycle – some of them direct us to one place, while others to another, while the construction continues without any legal basis,“ Joksimovic says.
Two representatives of the Strpce residents who have been protesting since the end of last year were today invited to a meeting to discuss the construction of the hydroelectric power plant. Joksimovic stated that there will be more information on the next steps after that meeting.
In mid-February of this year, after more than two months of protests by the local residents, the construction of a mini hydro-power plant in Strpce was suspended and the bulldozer that was at the “Obereke” site was removed. At the time, the decision on the suspension of construction was made by the mayor of Strpce due to „murky drinking water in the reservoir“ and, consequently, the „endangerment of the water supply of local residents“. The final decision, however, was left in the hands of the Kosovo Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning.
One of the organizers of the protest, Dobrivoje Stevanovic explained at the time that the final decision is in the hands of the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, to whom a written submission was submitted.
Even before the decision of the ministry, the “Metkos Group” from Pristina again tried to continue the construction on the hydro-power plant in early May. A conflict broke out between the police and the local residents, who tried to stop the construction. Approximately twenty residents of Strpce were injured.
The permission for the use of the land at the “Obereke” location was given by MA Strpce in 2013. The same MA, however, imposed the suspension of the construction for an indefinite period.
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