Imagine rafting on cool, turquoise waters down a deep canyon on a hot summer day. This is exactly what hundreds of river lovers and rafting enthusiasts will do on August 21st. By navigating the fast waters of the Tara River, rafters from across the Balkans will celebrate rivers in the first ‘Weekend for Rivers’ festival, hosted by KES “Pustolov” Rafting Club and Rafting Center “Tara-Raft”, supported by WWF Adria and the IRF.
The Tara river borders Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro, cutting one of the deepest and most spectacular canyons in Europe. In 1977, the river and the canyon were designated a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, recognising its diverse flora and fauna, varied habitats, and overall natural and cultural values. Named the ‘Tear of Europe’, Tara river has a high potential for sustainable development, supporting activities such as ecological tourism, rafting and kayaking, hiking, and canyoning. However, all this is at risk due to highly devastating plans to construct three hydropower plants on the Drina river, one of the main sources of the Tara.
Not only would the planned hydro-reservoirs irreversibly devastate 30 kilometres of the Drina river and consequently have a huge adverse effect on the Tara as well, but the entire planning process was fraught with numerous inconsistencies, lack of transparency and proper public participation, as well as unclear financing. Furthermore, the complex political organisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, paired with the fact that both rivers create natural borders to neighbouring countries, the proposed project fuels the political divide since not all decision makers were properly consulted. Also, and more strikingly, no feasibility studies have been released to the public, questioning the whole purpose and viability of the project.
That is why a dozen rafting clubs from across the region will gather in Bastasi, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on August 21st to celebrate Balkan rivers, some of the last wild, free-flowing rivers in Europe. The ‘Weekend for Rivers’ festival will be a way for them to raise their voices for rivers, pointing out the importance of preserving the Tara river and all its values that are at risk of being lost if the proposed hydropower development continues. As true ambassadors for rivers, the rafters will join other organisations and individuals working to preserve Balkan rivers for current and future generations.
We invite you to join us at this Weekend for Rivers festival to celebrate the rivers that impact our lives and shape our future!
Further information about the proposed hydropower dam construction:
- In 2020, the members of the BiH Parliament initiated proceedings before the Administrative Court against the decision of the Republic of Srpska to issue a concession for the construction of hydropower plants on the Upper Drina because they believe that the decision should be made at the state level
- A case is pending before the Committee for the Implementation of the Espoo Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, due to the failure of BiH to consult with Montenegro on the construction of hydropower plants.
- The Republic of Srpska Supreme Court is also challenging the 2019 Republic of Srpska decision, which allowed the ERS to rely on an environmental impact assessment dating back ten years and which, as noted, contains many omissions
- In 2019, the Aarhus Center of Bosnia and Herzegovina sued the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction and Ecology of the Republic of Srpska, believing that the deadline for extending the environmental permit had expired. The District Court in Banja Luka ruled in favour of the Arhaus Center. Despite that, the competent ministry issued a new environmental permit.
- At the beginning of 2019, after a joint session of the Governments of the Republic of Srpska and Serbia, a joint construction of HPP “Foča” and “Paunci”, and the construction of HPP “Buk Bijela” was announced. A study on expected costs, revenues or the manner of project implementation, as well as feasibility studies, and investments have never been made public.
Weekend for Rivers festival accomodation:
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most reputable independent nature conservation organisations, with nearly five million supporters and a global network active in more than a hundred countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the deterioration of the earth’s natural environment and build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature by preserving the world’s biodiversity and ensuring the sustainable use of renewable natural resources, promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.
International Rafting Federation is the official world governing body for rafting. Since 1997, the IRF has worked with the global rafting community – sport, recreational, commercial, environmental and sustainability organisations – to advance all avenues and concerns of rafting. A non-profit, democratic, global affiliation of national federations and sporting entities. Together responsible for fostering fair, credible and legitimate international rafting competition at all levels, and leading in raft guide standards and sustainable rafting the world over.
Find out more about sustainable rafting with our practical guide to sustainable rafting.