Government to stop construction of small hydropower plants in Kraljske Bare

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) supports the efforts of active citizens of Kraljske Bare, from the municipality of Kolašin, who fight for their basic human rights, defending from exploitation the “wild” rivers Ljubaštica, Crnja and Čestogaz, which are also potable. This takes place in the recently marked Regional Park, and these rivers are the first source tributaries of the Tara River, which is under UNESCO protection. Upon addressing of these citizens,  the CCE sent various types of requests to the competent authorities to stop the construction of small hydropower plants by a privileged investor.

Due to violations of construction regulations, violations of local waters and devastation of that area, the CCE sent to the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism an Initiative to suspend the construction and operation of three small hydropower plants – “Crnja”, “Ljubastica” and “Crni potok” (Čestogaz) in the Municipality of Kolašin, which the investor “Dekar” from Podgorica plans to make on the rivers Ljubaštica, Crnja and Čestogaz.

The planned construction of small hydropower plants represent the continuation of the long-term devastation of this area and the entire Podkomlje. Also, near the planned small hydropower plants linked to the rivers Čestogaz and Ljubaštica, less than 100 meters away, there is a large village cemetery that may be endangered, which is an additional danger.

The citizens of that area state that the buyer of the concession right since 2008, the company “Dekar”, represented by Momčilo Momo Miranović, started the project on the watercourse Crni Potok-Čestogaz without the knowledge of the residents of Kraljske Bare, and has only recently started first works, i.e. 12 years since concession permit and nine years from obtaining a building permit under the then applicable laws, which expired, so it was believed that the investor gave up.

Therefore, the CCE sent a request to the Ministry of Economy to explain the reasons they were guided by when they extended the concession contract to the investor “Dekar” several times due to non-compliance with construction deadlines and when that investor started work on the site only 15 days ago, as well as to provide documentation to substantiate those justifications. Namely, from the documentation available on the Government’s website, it can be concluded that the Government, on the one hand, was ready to terminate the concession agreement with the investor due to violation of deadlines in the construction of these small hydropower plants, but after that an incomprehensible extension of the construction deadline is allowed. These are contradictory standpoints, which lead to the conclusion that the Government’s official policy is defeated in matters where certain private individuals have an interest.

For decades, the locals used the water from the mentioned watercourses for drinking, but also giving it to the domestic animals and flooding their properties, which is the basic economic resource for living in the countryside. Nowadays, the survival of the majority of locals in this area is questionable, which is contrary to the Government’s commitment encouraging the development of agriculture. Considering climate change, it is clear that there is little water for life as well because its strength and quantity is declining on annual basis. Since obtaining the concession in 2008 until today, there are no small rivers in this area with a sufficient amount of water for the construction of planned small hydropower plants, so the analyses that were done before the start of such works, if they were done at all, are dubious.

Namely, in 2008, the Government of Montenegro started granting the first concessions for small hydropower plants construction projects with priority investment significance and explanation through the reasons for economic development of the North and reaching the national goal in the use of renewable energy sources. Today, after 12 years, the negative side of such projects is indisputable. The practice pointed to numerous problems in the application of similar laws and open conflicts with the local population, which fought and continue to fight to preserve its human rights and other legally guaranteed rights against privileged investors focused on profit.

Expert studies on the justification of small hydropower plants warn that they have a minor impact on energy stability and independence, and dangerous consequences for river and surrounding ecosystems, especially for “wild” potable rivers, as well as for sustainable development of rural areas. The document Analysis of the economic justification of concession fees and incentives for small hydropower plants on the territory of Montenegro, prepared by Damir Miljević, from Zagreb, and who gives a negative comment in all recommendations regarding small hydropower plants, states, amongst other, that “a system of concession fees and incentives for the production of electricity from small hydropower plants in Montenegro has no socio-economic justification and for society is harmful because it makes a direct social and financial loss of over 1.3 million of euros annually”. It is also stated that “reducing distribution losses by 4% (from 21% to 17%) would save more electricity than the annual production of all small hydropower plants from the incentive system for renewable energy sources”, referring to all small hydropower plants in Montenegro.

Insisting that, for the sake of someone’s private interests, these works continue to lead to the instability of the local community who failed to fight against privileged investors of small hydropower plants, because the potable rivers, which are natural hatcheries they put it in pipes that take all the water from the trough and take it to the power plant. Citizens have been manipulated about providing a biological minimum in watercourses, which have been given to concessionaires for decades of use. Such a “residue” of 20% of water dries quickly because its basin in this capacity on streams and rivers is very short and does not serve anyone or anything. As a result, the rivers were “taken away” from the locals and they were left without water, which endangered their human right to necessities.

We want to believe that the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, the Ministry of Economy, as well as the Government as a whole, will have the understanding to assess this as a business which is harmful and contrary to the public interest and will take measures and actions to stop such “investments”. Also, we expect a public response from the Directorate for Inspection Affairs which we asked to determine the situation on the spot and to suspend the works on this site due to series of non-transparent procedures. “This government will not work against the will of the citizens,” said Prime Minister Duško Marković in February 2019, when the construction of a kindergarten in the yard of the local gymnasium was suspended due to a protest by citizens in Bar. For the Government to be consistent and not to work against the will of the citizens of the Kraljske bare, it is necessary to stop the construction of small hydropower plants in their area.

The CCE will monitor this case and provide legal support to the citizens of the Kraljske bare to the best of its ability.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Adviser