Almost a year of protests against the construction of hydropower plants in Strpce ended in violence on Tuesday, when police used pepper spray to break up demonstrators.
Locals from the village of Lower Biti. Photo: BIRN
Around 20 locals from the village of Lower Biti, near the southern Kosovo town of Strpce, were injured on Tuesday during protests against the resumed construction of a hydropower plant on the Lepenc river.
A police unit used pepper spray to disperse the protesters. One local, Jeton Tahiri, said three people were arrested, and accused the police of using teargas against children in the crowd.
In January, the local municipality of Strpce halted the construction of the plant following large protests against the plans. They began when excavation work for the plant damaged supplies to a reservoir that supplies water to around 2,500 people.
But in September, the former Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, Fatmir Matoshi, lifted a moratorium on the construction of all hydropower plants in Kosovo put in place in April 2018 by his predecessor, Albena Reshitaj, following a series of protests across the country demanding a halt to construction.
The ban was to remain in place until a detailed study of Kosovo’s water levels was carried out, which was never completed.
The Municipality of Strpce has not explained why the construction of hydropower has resumed. In 2016, the local municipal assembly, with no specific time frame, suspended all building activities related to small hydropower plants. It is not clear whether this suspension order has been lifted.