Four thousands marched on Sunday, January 27th, in capital city of Serbia under the banner “Ne damo reke” (“We refuse to give our rivers away”). People came from all parts of Serbia to demand immediate moratorium on further construction of derivative mini hydro-power plants (MHP). The largest ecological protest ever held in this country was organised by the grassroots initiative “Odbranimo reke Stare planine” (ORSP), an ever growing community which communicate and coordinate activities through public FB group with more than 80 thousand members.
The vital organisational support came from couple of Belgrade-based organisations engaged in local community struggles as well as initiatives advocating for human right to water such as our initiative “Right to Water”. The number of different civil society organizations engaged in the struggle is on the rise and protest received open support of university professors, journalists and artists. The support also came from abroad – Coalition for the defence of rivers in BIH, European Water Movement, etc. – and that makes this struggle even more important since the derivative mini hydro-power plants destroy rivers throughout the Balkan. On the other hand Serbian Government remains silent, which is the usual tactic they turn to when they are being faced with the question of MHP and energy strategy.
The protest began with moment of silence for all the rivers wiped out by the very destructive pursue for renewable energy quotas.
During the public speeches, the experts and activists presented many arguments against MHP regarding the environmental threats, such as water flows disruptions and loss of biodiversity connected with it. In context of energy production, the joint capacity of all 850 MHP whose construction is planned in Serbia would suffice only 2 percent of the national energy needs, followed by enormous collateral damage to the water flows and ecosystem generally. Construction of MHPs is cheaper comparing to other forms of renewable energy sources power production. However, MHP construction is organised in a way that allows private owners to invest in construction, whereas the state guarantees paying the preferential price for 12 years (feed-in tariff). Having in mind that such projects are very profitable, the risk of potential corruption is rather high and the price of it all is paid by the citizens.
The protest managed to create a powerful sense of unity, by bridging and connecting scattered and isolated struggles of small local communities across Serbia, as it was emphasised by Jelena Drmanac, a local activist from small vilage in central Serbia.
Initiative "Right to Water" consists of individuals and organizations and it was initially established by organizations the Left Summit of Serbia, 7 demands and Social-democratic Union.
Initiative "Right to Water" / Inicijativa "Pravo na vodu"
pravonavodu (at) gmail.com