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Bosnia and Herzegovina’s battle for environmental protection against corporate interests

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, ordinary citizens are rallying together to combat industrial projects that threaten their environment. This grassroots movement, gaining momentum across the nation, has the potential to become one of the most significant mobilizations since the late 1990s refugee return movement.

The essay delves into the risks posed by mineral extraction and the resistance emerging against such exploitation. International corporations, eyeing minerals essential for the global “green transition,” are spearheading projects in Bosnia-Herzegovina, prioritizing profit over environmental concerns. Key to these developments is the collaboration between Bosnian politicians and corporate representatives, commonly referred to as ambassadors, who advocate for the interests of these companies.

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Amidst these challenges, the environmental threat is uniting diverse groups, transcending previous divides. For instance, pollution in shared waterways is prompting collaboration across ethnic and entity boundaries.

The essay is structured into two parts. Part I contextualizes the international pursuit of resources in Bosnia and outlines corporate mineral prospecting in locations like Vareš and Mt. Ozren. Part II explores local resistance efforts against environmental degradation and sheds light on the collusion between domestic politicians, international actors, and profit-driven corporations.

Local activist Zoran Poljašević aptly captures the sentiment: “We are not at war, but it feels like it. We must organize to resist.”

The environmental peril extends beyond mere ecological damage; it poses a severe threat to public health and biodiversity. Unchecked industrialization has already led to irreversible harm to forests, waterways, and communities, exacerbating existing issues of air and water pollution.

International mining companies are targeting Bosnia’s mineral-rich regions, exploiting resources at the expense of local communities. In the Republika Srpska, firms like Lykos Balkan Metals are engaging in mineral exploration without adequately consulting affected populations. Similarly, Adriatic Metals’ operations near Vareš have led to water contamination, endangering downstream communities like Kakanj.

Despite promises of economic development, these projects often bring minimal benefits to local residents while inflicting long-term environmental damage. Moreover, the complicity of domestic politicians and international intermediaries perpetuates a cycle of exploitation.

The essay underscores the urgency of grassroots mobilization to protect Bosnia’s natural heritage and confront systemic corruption. By resisting environmental destruction, citizens aim not only to safeguard their land but also to challenge undemocratic practices and prioritize public welfare over corporate interests.

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