Photo: Lower Bitija. Photo: BIRN.

A six-year struggle for the river

Residents of the village of Biti e Poshtme (Lower Biti) near Shterpce have been struggling for six years to preserve their local river and environment. Since 2015, both Albanians and Serbs from the village have organised numerous protests in attempts to protect the river from the development of hydropower plants.

Two villagers, Agron Rushiti, a Kosovo Albanian, and Jovica Stanetovic, a Kosovo Serb, talked to BIRN about working together to stop pipes being placed in the River Lepenc and diverting water to the plant. 

“Once we heard that the construction of the hydropower plant would begin, we stopped them from taking over our river,” Stanetovic said. “That is why we began the protest.”

Rushiti meanwhile told BIRN about the need to resist, and protect nature from people he describes as “vulgar and savage.” 

River Lepenc in Lower Biti. Photo: Atdhe Mulla.

“They have damaged the nature we had,” he told BIRN. “They have committed a massacre against nature.”

Stanetovic agrees. “They have turned this beauty into something ugly. Simply put, they built a cemetery,” she said. “Apart from taking our water, they took our lives too.”

Rushiti and Stanetovic reveal that in the past this river was rich with different types of fish, but no fish are there anymore. Today, Rushiti has to walk roughly eight kilometres every day to get drinking water. 

Investors have also cut down 200-year-old trees in order to attempt to place pipes that are up to two meters wide inside the river.

However, the residents of Lower Biti have withstood numerous forms of pressure, including alleged attempts at bribery, and Rushiti and Stanetovic both say they will continue their opposition in the future.

This series of articles for BIRN is supported by the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK).

21/05/2021 - 13:24

21 May 2021 - 13:24

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.