A 35 MW hydropower plant is currently under construction on a pristine section of the Neretva river at Ulog. Seven more plants are also planned further upstream.
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Project promoter: EFT – HE Ulog d.o.o, a subsidiary of the EFT Group (Ulog) and MHE Marvel d.o.o. (HES Gornja Neretva)
Installed capacity: 35 MW
Lead contractor: Sinohydro, China
Financing: Ulog: Reportedly, EFT’s own funds; No information available for Marvel’s plants.
River: Upper Neretva
Protected areas: Gornji tok Neretve Emerald Site
Other key risks: Geological – landslides
– The Ulog project is being built and seven more plants are planned in an Emerald site.
– The terrain appears unstable – two workers were killed by landslides in 2013.
– People downstream in Konjic fear that earthquakes could cause flooding.
The EFT Group’s 35 MW Ulog plant, with a 53-metre high dam, is currently being built by China’s Sinohydro. A series of seven smaller plants is also planned further upstream by local company Marvel d.o.o. and would turn most of the upper course of the river – a section of about 38 kilometres – into a series of dams, pipes and reservoirs.
Work on the Ulog plant started for the first time in 2013, but in July that year, two fatal incidents took place and works stopped. On 4 July, a worker from the Prijedorputevi company was killed by a rock breaking off a cliff face while building access roads. Only four days later on 8 July, another worker from the same company was also killed by a rockslide, and another worker taken to hospital. After this, the works were put on hold while more research was done, but in 2017 the project was redesigned with the dam slightly further downstream. It remains to be seen whether the new design will be any safer.
People living downstream fear that the operational phase of the plant will also put them in danger, as the location where the plant is being built is where a landslide in 1934 caused the biggest floods in the history of Konjic. According to local people, the landslide blocked the Neretva, which then burst through, sending a massive wave downstream.
Neretva - one of the most biodiverse rivers in Europe
The projects are also subject to international legal challenges under the Bern Convention and Energy Community Treaty, as the Bosnia and Herzegovina authorities failed to protect the upper Neretva – part of the Convention’s Emerald Network – by permitting hydropower development along its entire length.
Although the environmental impact assessment studies for the Ulog project and the other Upper Neretva hydropower projects identified several significant species such as otters and crayfish being present, the government of the Republika Srpska Entity concluded, without any evidence, that these projects would not have a negative impact on the environment and could be implemented.
In July 2022, the first Neretva Science Week, organised by the Center for Environment together with Riverwatch and Euronatur, identified 1300 species living on the upper Neretva, of which 24 were new for Bosnia and Herzegovina, and eight species were new to science.
It is not clear whether the Ulog plant will be used for peak electricity generation and if so, what the downstream impacts of major daily variations in water level will be. Considering the rich biodiversity downstream above Konjic, including marble trout, the endangered soft-mouthed trout, white-clawed crayfish, kingfishers and endemic invertebrates, this is a major concern.
Despite being under construction, the Ulog project remains very high-risk and public opposition, particularly from the downstream Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, is increasing. As of June 2023, the other seven plants are not moving ahead significantly.