Small Hydropower Plants in Serbia impacting Human Rights and the Environment

Small hydropower plants in Serbia are creating tensions in some of the regions. As a result of this, the Protector of Citizens of Serbia undertook a control investigation in 2019, in which they determined that their construction may have negative consequences for the environment. In order to prevent further adverse impacts and to preserve natural diversity, it was necessary to reconsider their construction, particularly in protected areas. Accordingly, an Opinion was issued to the competent authorities, paired with recommendations to the Ministry of Environmental Protection. These recommended that supervision should occur, determining whether there were reasons to reopen closed procedures for giving consent to surveys on environmental impact assessment and ordering compensatory measures. They also enacted a Bylaw to regulate the minimum sustainable flow of watercourses on which construction was planned.

Late 2019 brought success, as it was planned to adopt amendments to the Law on Nature Protection and to the Law on Environmental Impact Assessment which would regulate the ban on construction of small hydropower plants in all protected zones, as well as tightening the requirements and criteria for construction of small hydropower plants. Although the legal amendments announced have not yet been adopted, nor has the Ministry of Environmental Protection fully complied with the recommendations issued by the time this report was completed, the Protector of Citizens holds regular meetings with the representatives of the Ministry of Environmental Protection in order to strengthen cooperation and improve the situation in this area.

This is one among many of the NHRI success stories that Human Right 2 Water has gathered in its new publication on National Human Rights Institutions and Water Governance – Compilation of Good Practices.