Identification of the most valuable river ecosystems in the Republic of Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Nature park Hutovo blato, BiH © Andrija Vrdoljak WWF-Canon

WWF has produced a map of the most valuable rivers in the Republic of Srpska, as a basis for the strategic planning of infrastructure projects.

Banja Luka – In December WWF in cooperation with the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural and Natural Heritage presented a new analysis and maps of key rivers and river reaches in the Republic of Srpska that stand out because of their biodiversity and habitat preservation. This is the first step in a process that WWF is pursuing throughout the region to ensure the future of the most important rivers and the services they provide to society.

In June last year, the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), including representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H), adopted a document – “Guidelines for sustainable hydropower” – which promotes the classification of river segments according to their suitability for hydropower development. The document advocates the analysis of river segments according to strictly defined criteria, such as their potential for hydropower development and their environmental value, and recommends that they are classified as suitable, less favourable and unfavourable for hydropower development, i.e. “exclusion zones”. The document does not specify which methodology the states should apply, so WWF (in collaboration with state institutes and independent experts from the region) has developed a methodology that governments could use to identify “exclusion zones”.

River Krupa, Nature park Hutovo blato, BiH © Andrija Vrdoljak WWF-Canon

“Well-preserved rivers are an important advantage for the Republic of Srpska and B&H. Their exploitation for energy and water management must be the result of strategic thinking based on a scientific assessment of evaluated rivers. WWF has carried out an analysis to determine the most valuable rivers in B&H, those that deserve special attention in the planning of infrastructure projects. We would like this to be the beginning of the process for the nomination of exclusion zones, in which the Government of the Republic of Srpska should include a wide range of stakeholders,” said Petra Remeta from the WWF Mediterranean Programme.

WWF’s methodology identifies as the most valuable rivers those which are in good and very good condition, with a significant number of endemic or endangered species and protected areas. An analysis of 115 rivers in B&H has shown that many of them are in good or very good condition, while the total length of highly valuable river segments is as high as 2,632km, 60% of the total length of the analysed rivers.

Agricultural land, river Neretva delta in Croatia © Andrija Vrdoljak WWF-Canon

“Preserved rivers represent the wealth of our country, but we are in danger of making hasty decisions to exploit their potential for energy purposes. We should avoid the mistakes made by other European countries that have exhausted their river network. Many of these countries now have national programmes for the revitalization of rivers and spend large amounts of money on the restoration of degraded ecosystems that can no longer provide important services, such as clean drinking water and flood protection,” said Dejan Radošević from the Republic Institute for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage of Republic of Srpska.

B&H final map 2014 by WWF

B&H final map 2014 by WWF

Although representatives of the ICPDR were not able to attend WWF’s presentation of the analysis and maps in Banja Luka, they sent a special letter of support, stating: “The main objective of the application of the Guidelines is to ensure a balanced approach that actually enables a variety of uses. For the energy sector this would mean a simplified process for obtaining approval and information for projects that are likely be implemented. For the environmental sector it would mean increased transparency, participation in the decision-making process and the protection of sensitive river reaches.”

Rivers know no borders. Solutions for their management should be adopted at the regional level. In the coming months WWF will present the analysis of most valuable rivers in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Montenegro, and begin discussions with local institutions to start the process of nomination and contribute to the long-term survival of the most important rivers in the Dinaric Arc region.

  • Contact

Bojan Stojanovic
WWF MedPO, Communications Officer