September 14, 2018 Business

Serbia’s Greens Mobilise Against Threat to Mountain Rivers

Environmental activists say that schemes obliging Serbia to renew more electricity from renewable sources have benefited a few privileged contractors – and are wrecking the natural habitat.

Pirot. 2.09.2018. – Nekoliko hiljada gradjana Pirota, ali i iz cele Srbije, ucestvuje u protestu protiv izgradnje mini hidroelektrane na Staroj planini pod nazivom “Odbranimo reke Stare planine” koji je danas odrzan na Crvenom trgu u centru Pirota. (BETAPHOTO/SASA DJORDJEVIC/DS)

Milan Radonjic

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Thousands of people from all over Serbia gathered in the first days of September in the small southern town of Pirot to protest against the construction of hydropower plants in the Stara Planina area, making this a biggest public protest in Serbia in years.

It was generated by a grassroots campaign of local activists to defend the rivers of Stara Planina in southeast Serbia.

They were alerted by the devastating effects that the small hydropower plant construction had in the protected nearby national park of Kopaonik, Aleksandar Panic, a founder of the activist group Protect the Rivers of Stara Planina, said.

“In Kopaonik and Vlasina today, we have dry river beds and destroyed nature, and this is what we want to prevent here by all possible means,” he said.

Panic and his co-activists were involved in a grassroots campaign informing people in the villages and towns around Pirot and all over Serbia about the irreversible damage that some small hydropower plant projects have done to nature.

“People believed that these projects were about small, romantic-looking power plants, producing energy for the local community. They had no idea what this is all really about,” Panic told BIRN, explaining how they motivated local people to join them in the struggle.

“Instead, it is a well-organised scheme for pumping the money out of energy system for few privileged contractors – and wrecking the natural pearls of this country in the process.

“The result is several individuals that are well off on one side, and on the other we have mountain rivers directed into giant black pipes, dry river beds, destroyed natural habitats and landslides in protected areas. We want to prevent this from happening.”

Green energy and black pipes

Serbia has undertaken an obligation to the European Energy Community to make its energy sources greener, and obtain some 27 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020, as part of a global effort to reduce the carbon imprint.

The interest of private contractors in this project is clear. By investing in small hydropower plants they secure higher prices for energy they deliver to the national energy network. But things have not worked out so well for the local communities.

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Belgrade Insight to be integrated into Balkan Insight

After a 265 issue run, Belgrade Insight, BIRN’s bi-weekly Belgrade-focused English-language newspaper, printed its last paper edition on Friday 21 December, 2018. 

In its decade-long life since 2008, Belgrade Insight sought to bring quality journalism to its readers and subscribers.

Belgrade Insight covered political and economic developments in Serbia, but also told stories about people, businesses and events which shaped a unique and multi-faceted city like Belgrade.

In addition to detailed analysis and coverage of political, economic and business affairs, Belgrade Insight provided its readers with everything that expatriates, short-term visitors and local residents need to know in order to enjoy this great city.

It the past decade, it saw many changes in Serbia’s political and cultural climate: from the deep recession of early 2010s to Serbia’s candidate status in the EU, through Belgrade’s first Eurovision song contest and re-opening of city’s museums.

Although Belgrade Insight will no longer be printed, BIRN journalists and associates will continue their coverage of Belgrade and Serbia through the Balkan Insight website.

For any questions or refunds contact Snezana Caricic (snezana.caricic@birn.eu.com)