27 September 2022, SARAJEVO/PRAGUE – Non-governmental organizations published a list of environmental priorities for the upcoming period in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They appeal to all parties and candidates to adopt river protection, timely access to information & other policies to improve the country’s regularly poor environmental rankings.
In the recently published manifesto, a group of environmental NGOs  suggested priorities for a healthier environment and better protection of natural resources. The document inspires candidates and voters to consider its priority environmental policy goals for the next four years. The suggestions include citizens' right to defend their environment, the establishment of a functional register of large polluters, support for citizens’ associations, or a moratorium on the construction of hydropower facilities. “We want a healthier environment and better protection of our natural heritage and the landscape,” says Vladimir Topić from the Center for Environment. „To achieve this, we need more transparent administration and institutions that really, not just formally, support the right of citizens to participate in decisions affecting the environment. An example would be the law on concessions, which should allow citizens to participate in the decision-making process from the beginning and not only during the procedure, which in practice is often too late,“ he explains.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is known for its natural beauty and wealth, but at the same time, it is experiencing plundering of natural resources, poor waste management, and low ecological standards. Sarajevo regularly ranks among the world’s most polluted cities, and the country has the fifth-highest mortality rate from air pollution worldwide.
Several points of the manifesto are essential for the topic of river protection as there are 353 small hydropower plants already under construction or planned in the whole country that can harm the natural flow of the rivers. Although Bosnia and Herzegovina is a state with high river biodiversity and many rare and endemic species, it also has one of the lowest percentages of protected areas compared to other European countries. Therefore, the Arnika Association and the Center for Environment implement a joint project to conserve natural river flows and defend the rights of affected communities.  Over the past few years, the attitude of decision-makers who used to support hydropower projects has started to change as environmentalists and citizens keep warning that only a few benefit from the hydropower projects. At the same time, local communities face the consequences of biodiversity loss, droughts, and lost opportunities for ecotourism.
The increasing number of municipalities joining the Dam-Free Municipalities initiative and the recent ban on issuing concessions for hydropower projects in part of the country lead the manifesto's authors to believe that political leaders, regardless of political affiliation, are already aware of the inestimable value of Bosnian nature and will therefore actively promote the manifesto's priorities in their policies.
 The manifesto was published on behalf of the Center for the Environment (BiH), the Aarhus Centre Sarajevo (BiH), Ekološko-humanitarna udruga Gotuša (BiH), Centar Dr. Stjepan Bolkay, and the Arnika Association (Czechia). You can find the full version in Bosnian here: https://eko.ba/publikacije/359-ekoloski-manifest
 More about the project here: https://arnika.org/en/countries/bosnia-and-herzegovina