Ensara Hodzic, with her parents, sisters, and brother, has been living in Kaćuni, near Busovača, for 20 years. Their home is located next to the Kozica River bed, which flows through this place, beautifies it, and gives it life. It is a river that has beautified many summers for Ensara and all other people that live on its banks. The Hodžić family has fought all their lives against the waste disposal in the Kozica River, and Ensara's father cleared the medical waste disposal site on his bank and turned into an orchard. But their fight for the river did not stop there…
This is their story.
All alone in the fight for (basic) rights
“Two small hydropower plants have already been built on the Kozica River in the area of the municipality of Fojnica. In 2014, my father was invited to a session of the local community of Kaćuni about the grant of approval for the construction of a small hydropower plant, where he was the only one who did not give his consent to the construction of the hydropower plant. The other members of the working group representing our local community gave their signatures and consent because of the fact that the investor would help the local community to introduce public lighting, pay for electricity for the community, and repair the road. The municipality of Busovača and the Central Bosnia Canton (SBK) guaranteed it. The investor of the project is Amer Jerlagic, publicly known as the general manager of Elektroprivreda BiH (public electric utility company), and one of the candidates for the presidency of BiH," is how Ensara Hodžić begins the story and continues.
"From that day, my father spoke personally to the mayor of our community, who always guaranteed that he would not allow a construction site near our family home. However, at a tender on February 4, 2015, it was announced that the plant would be built. The project of the construction of the powerhouse and installed capacity of 550kW is less than 10 meters from our house. Since we could not expect support from the local population because they were previously convinced that this project would bring more benefits than damage, which is absolutely incorrect and unfounded. My father hired and lawyer to protect our rights, the basic rights for life. He sent letters to the Ministry of Agriculture, Water Management, and Forestry of the Central Bosnia Canton and the Ministry of Spatial Planning, Environmental Protection, Return and Housing Affairs, asim Mekic, in writing and also verbally numerous times. Because of this situation, it was clear that we could not ask for a complete dismissal of the project. The already-mentioned "development" of the local community, and our demand as conscientious citizens was that the powerhouse should be moved 100 meters above or below our yard. Minister Lejla Salkić was the only one who made this case realistically and rationally and stood on our side. One year after this, in 2016, planning permission was given by Amer Mrako, Minister of Spatial Planning, Construction, Environmental Protection, Return and Housing Affairs. Then again my father addresses the Mayor, who gives him his word and guarantees that the next permit, ie the building permit, will not be issued until our requirements are met."
The engine room is built just 10 meters from the house (PHOTO: Centre for the Environment)“My neighbor is more important than the investor”
Two years passed after this consent was given. In November 2018, the decision on approval for construction was sent to the address of the Hodžić family, together with the relevant building permit, also signed by Minister Amer Mrako. "In those days, it was very difficult to do anything reasonably, and think positively. Is this really happening and is this really possible? We were inspired to keep fighting by the women of Kruščica, and the group of people who won and fought for the Željeznica River in Fojnica,” emphasizes Ensara.
Asim Mekić is the Mayor of the Busovača Municipality and President of the SDA Cantonal Committee. After this permit, Mekić guaranteed that nothing would be built until their issue was resolved. However, in July 2018, measurements started across the road outside their house, and construction of the above-mentioned powerhouse began. "My father addressed the mayor, who then called to Amer Jerlagic, who replied to him with one sound sentence only: 'Everything is according to the law.' As the oldest child, I choose to take an active part in this fight, protecting my father from the kind of people who long ago, in other ways, destroyed the lives of tens of thousands of people for their own interests.”
The Hodžić family first contacted the women of Kruščica to consult them with what to do. A lawyer, Bruno Božić, who is involved in the legal struggle against the destruction of many of the rivers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is also involved in the case. "He started lawsuits against the licenses and decisions of the ministers mentioned at the Cantonal Court of Travnik, and each one of them was rejected. In the meantime, the works started.” emphasizes Ensara.
The case was also handed over to the Ombudsman for Human Rights, and supported by Lejla Salkic; the family is supported by the Center for the Environment and several neighbors who are aware of this case.
"When the works started, we managed to keep the peace next to our house until the time when the machines come to the rock that meets the entire area and below the foundations of our house. After our house was damaged during mining, we went to inspect. Because of the enormous vibrations and noise that occurred during the destruction of the rock, the works were stopped. We expect all this, and because of this, my father refused to sign the agreement for the powerhouse to be built in that place from the beginning. Our case has been handed over to the Supreme Court, and we do not intend to give up this fight. The works were stopped because the contractors are our neighbors, and the people who respect my father's words are more important than the investor,” Ensara points out.
Ensara's father shows damage to the home (PHOTO: Center for the Environment)
Ensara Hodžić: "I am continuing this fight because this is my country too!"
"My sisters, my brother, and I will remember our father's words, which I remember in the most difficult moments: 'Children, go away, go far, go and do not come back, this is chaos.' I am writing this story, I am continuing this fight, because this is my country, because there are laws that work for us, that work for nature and these laws always win. Five years of life under stress in order to defend the basic human right to live! And how important are human lives for them? We have received all this over the years from the investor: a workplace for my father, scholarships, upgrading the house, for example, we offer to change carpentry in the whole house, etc., etc. Absurdity upon absurdity!
Because of these absurdities and systems of distorted values, thousands of people have left this beautiful country, and after all, and my sisters and brother, we will listen to our father, we will go somewhere where they are made to protect everyone, not just the people who made the law. And here ...? The river will stop. Life will stop here. This is our story, this is our fight. I write it, because I know how many rivers in this country they are planning to destroy here in the Balkans. I am writing because it does not have to be destroyed; it can be stopped! Do not allow life to stop you in your place! Stand up and say: 'I am not giving up my river! Do not give up, stop it, you matter, your voice is valid, and we owe it to nature.' In some places people are not afraid and do not consider themselves to be pawns, but as a pillar and the basis of a healthy society.
My parents will, hopefully, have a quiet life and a peaceful morning after all, even if I have to go to the international courts with this story and case. The good always wins...”