Governments must halt coal power ecocide and make amends in Western Balkans

Coal power in the Western Balkans is damaging homes, devastating health and livelihoods and ruining small scale agriculture. The governments of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina must move away from coal power, restore the region‘s biodiversity and compensate affected people.

The Western Balkans has some of Europe‘s highest air pollution levels. Both countries source most of their energy from fossil fuels, especially domestically produced coal, with little regard for its impact on local communities.  

A recent expansion has been funded by controversial Chinese-backed investments, often without environmental impact assessments and despite China’s commitment to cease funding coal power. 

Lost land and livelihoods

This has exposed local communities and farmers to pollution, land erosion and loss of livelihood.

Many have fought for years to be re-located or fairly compensated. They have lost their land and livelihoods, seen their houses and farm buildings crumble around them and their health deteriorate. 

“It is high time the authorities take actions to protect the interest of the population, rather than those of the polluters,” says Denis Žiško from Aarhus Center in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In a new report published today Coal Power Ecological Destruction in the Western Balkans FIAN International and local civil society groups highlight the harm inflicted by coal power and call for justice for affected communities and for Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina to phase out coal power in line with their international human rights obligations, the Paris Agreement, and the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. 

The report was compiled with the Center for Ecology and Sustainable Development (Centar za ekologiju i održivi razvoj, CEKOR) in Serbia, the Center for Environment (Centar za životnu sredinu, CZZS), and the Aarhus Center (Aarhus Centar) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sinking village

It investigates the impacts of coal mining and related activities throughout the coal cycle on people’s right to adequate food and nutrition and to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. There is a particular focus on local struggles and resistance to the impacts of coal power in three locations: the villages of Klicevac and Drmno, near Drmno mine and Kostolac power plant in Serbia; Kamengrad mine and Kamengrad village, in the municipality of Sanski Most in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Ugljevik power plant and coal mine, also in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The mine is destroying not only their livelihoods but also their properties,“ says Zvezdan Kalmar from CEKOR, about the impact of Drmno mine on the nearby village of Klicevac in Serbia.

“We expect that in a few years time … part of the village will actually sink,“ he adds.

Testimonies gathered from local people and civil society groups highlight clear indications of ecological destruction. These include polluted and disrupted groundwater supplies, which leads to waterlogging, water shortages and diminished agricultural yields. There are also reports of plant diseases, flooding and subsiding of homes and farm facilities and increased instances of respiratory illness, allergies, and other severe health issues.

Laws must be respected

Despite this, the governments of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have yet to act. There is a shocking lack of transparency, participation, and local democracy in both countries combined with repeated failures to conform to national and international legal frameworks. Local communities are rarely consulted and there is little evidence of credible environmental impact assessments. 

“Policies and laws are there to be respected and duly followed. What is the point of having them if they are simply ignored? Says Dragan Osti? from the Center for Environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“We need to keep our environment clean, alive, and for people and communities to be able to live on their land for as long as they wish to.”

FIAN International joins local civil society groups, CEKOR, CZZS, Aarhus Center, and the communities in demanding urgent action from the governments of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovia to address these serious rights violations. They must establish proper remedy mechanisms to compensate and resettle affected people, stop support to coal-fired power and set ambitious coal phase-out goals in line with their international human rights obligations and the Paris Agreement.

They should also do more to safeguard, respect, and restore biodiversity, with a particular focus on the human right to adequate food and nutrition, and the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.

Read in English the full report, the Executive Summary, and the Key Recommendations.

Read in Serbian the full report, the Executive Summary, and the Key Recommendations

Read in Bosnian the full report, the Executive Summary, and the Key Recommendations

For more information or media interviews please contact Clara Roig Medina, FIAN International Digital Communications:


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