Relocation of the Vreoci village, Kolubara coal basin, Serbia

The process of Vreoci village resettlement to give way to the open pits for coal is riddled with many irregularities and causing numerous negative environmental and social impacts.


Description
Vreoci, a village in central Serbia, is located in the Kolubara lignite basin. Kolubara is the center of the Serbian energy sector and has been exploited by the publicly owned company MB Kolubara since 1896, including open pit technology since 1952. After several decades of exploitation many open pits were expanded eventually reaching the Vreoci village. In order to respond to the Serbian energy strategy predictions of increase in electricity use, the company acknowledged its plans to expand the existing ones and to open new pits. The first attempt to open a new mine pit, including the expropriation of private property and the relocation of households and the graveyard of the Vreoci village, occurred at the end of 1990s and was repeated in 2003 but without success due to opposition from citizens . In another attempt in 2007, the plan for Vreoci relocation was backed by the national government, the municipality of Lazarevac, the public electricity company of Serbia (EPS), and also received consent by local government of Vreoci. Moreover, in 2009 the government recognized the project as of national interest. Finally, the expropriation and resettlement process started in January 2010. It provoked another citizen protest and obstruction of relocation preparation work in the graveyard. The citizens demanded relocation of the households first, before proceeding with the graveyard, as they were afraid they might be left living among the mining pits. In 2011, the projects received support from the minister of environmental protection, when relocation of 850 household started. As soon as the first graves were exhumed in July 2011 the local community burst out in protests in Vreoci and even police had to intervene. The citizens supported by the NGO Ekoloski pokret Srbije organised another protests in front of the Serbian Assembly and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Belgrade. Later on, the Ecological Society Vreoci, NGO CEKOR, and the local government sent a formal complaint to the EBRD and KfW bank asking them to withdraw the loan assigned to MB Kolubara. In September 2011, as a result of the lawsuit filed by the activists against the Serbian Government, the Administrative Court cancelled the decision in which the relocation project was considered as of national interest. However, the decision was reverted one year later, after which 90% of Vreoci citizens signed the expropriation contracts. In 2012, Vreoci's mayor and citizens organized 10 days of hunger strikes in a reaction to a negative resolution of the lawsuit against the illegal grave exhumation. The new mining pits were opened and relocation was continued in 2013, and it is planned to be finalized in 2018. Many relocated citizens of Vreoci are not satisfied with their new locations, while those still waiting to be relocated suffer from pollution originating from the open pits. The whole process was followed by corruption allegation, such as when one of the EPS board members was paid an overvalued sum in compensation for relocation of his property in Vreoci. Finally, the investigation against former EPS managers was opened in 2012 (still without results, except for some minor cases resulted in an acquittal), while the Serbian government openly reacted in 2013 through its Ministry of energy. MB Kolubara set up an online application for an anonymous corruption report. The new management claim that corruption crisis at Kolubara basin is past. The basin was heavily affected in the floods in Serbia in May 2014. In November 2015, in a response to the formal NGO and citizens complaints from 2012 and 2013, EBRD recognized that the bank and EPS as its client failed to accomplish several requirements related to the EBRD Environmental and Social policy. The resettlement process is ongoing. The authorities of Vreoci participated in a meeting with representatives of EPS and MB Kolubara on the actualization of conditions and dynamic of the relocation in accordance with “Programmatic principles for resettlement of Vreoci community” (so called “Blue Book”) from 2007 and the Law on Expropriation. Given that the remaining households have been subject to important health impacts and property damages, NGO CEKOR demanded from EPS to speed up the relocation process as well as do the same in other villages affected by the open pit expansion within the Kolubara region as well as in other regions in Serbia, such as Kostolac.  
Basic Data
NameRelocation of the Vreoci village, Kolubara coal basin, Serbia
CountrySerbia
SiteVreoci, Lazarevac
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Coal extraction and processing
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesElectricity
Coal
Project Details and Actors
Project Details
MB Kolubara lignite basin exploitation area = 133.9 km2, from which 51,4 km2 are used for mining.
See more...
Project Area (in hectares)1,016
Level of Investment (in USD)180,000,000 provided by the national goverment
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population3,210
Start Date1999
Company Names or State EnterprisesMining Basin Kolubara Itd - MB Kolubara lignite basin (RB Kolubara) from Serbia - Mining pit opening and coal exploitation
Relevant government actorsThe Ministry of Energy and Mining of Republic of Serbia; The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection of Republic of Serbia; Municipal government of Lazarevac; Local government of Vreoci
International and Financial InstitutionsKfW Development Bank (KfW) from Germany - Provided 80 million USD loan to MB Kolubara for environmental projects
European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) - Provided 100 million USD loan to MB Kolubara for environmental projects
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersEkolosko udruzenje Vreoci; Centra za ekologiju i održivi razvoj (CEKOR); Ekoloski pokret Novog Sada; Ekoloski pokret Srbije; Ekolosko drustvo Turija; Udruzenje pcelara Buducnost; Organizacija sportskih ribolovaca Pestan; Odred izvidjaca Kolubarac; Udruzenje gradjana Ljubitelji I odgajivaci konja-Kolubara; Udruzenje gradjana Kulturna bastina I rudarsko nasledje; Udruzenje gradjana Nase ognjiste; Lovacko drustvo Fazan; Udruzenje gradjana Vodenicno kolo
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Fishermen
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Recreational users
Beekeepers and hunters
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Development of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills
OtherIn addition to the relocation of Vreoci, MB Kolubara conducted re-routing of river Kolubara. It is also planned re-routing of other three rivers Pestan, Lukavica and Vranicina. The last re-routing of Kolubara River started in 2013. In floods in Serbia in May 2014, the Kolubara river submerged the village Vreoci and the newly open mine pit, which reduced the coal production for one third. This also resulted in the river Kolubara being returned back to its previous river bed.
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Corruption
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Migration/displacement
Repression
Development of AlternativesThe citizens of Vreoci demanded to be relocated before the graveyard, which would guarantee they would not be left living among mining pits. They also asked for higher compensation and demanded that all households are moved to only one chosen location so as not to break up the village. NGOs requested faster and more socially responsible relocation process.
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The process of relocation is ongoing and will be completed in 2018. Many households are still daily exposed to the pollution from the open pits, while those relocated are not satisfied with the new location.
Sources and Materials
References

EBRD support for Kolubara paving the “ash way” for development of Serbia
[click to view]

CEKOR's compliant letter to EBRD
[click to view]

Report on the involuntarily resettlement activities in the Kolubara Lignite Basin
[click to view]

KOLUBARA: PCM COMPLIANCE REVIEW (EBRD)
[click to view]

Saopštenje za javnost: EBRD priznao greške sa EPSom
[click to view]

A clear and present danger. How financial institutions and authorities have failed to address the human impacts of resettlement in Serbia's lignite mining fields
[click to view]

Links

EPS KOLUBARA ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
[click to view]

EBRD support for Kolubara paving the “ash way” for development of Serbia
[click to view]

RB „Kolubara“ zbog kopova menja geografiju
[click to view]

Priprema se izmeštanje dela korita Kolubare
[click to view]

Meštani protiv izmeštanja groblja zbog basena Kolubare
[click to view]

Vreočani: Radikalizacija protesta zbog Kolubare
[click to view]

Vreoci, Savet mesne zajednice - Rušenje kapele
[click to view]

Protest Vreočana uz sveće
[click to view]

Vreoci: Pozlilo štrajkaču glađu
[click to view]

Serbia's unabated quest for coal causes tremors among mining communities
[click to view]

Environmental and social controversies of Kolubara environmental improvement project
[click to view]

The reality of resettlement in Kolubara, Serbia: Out of the frying pan into the fire
[click to view]

Hunger strike begins in protest of cemetery removal at EBRD coal mine in Serbia
[click to view]

EU urged not to fund coal mine project in Serbia
[click to view]

Kolubara lignite mine, Serbia
[click to view]

Complaint of Ekoloski centar Novog Sada to EBDR
[click to view]

Letter from the local community in the Serbian town Vreoci to the EBRD
[click to view]

The request for the suspension of the credit arrangement with energy company IC MB "Kolubara" for ENVIRONMENTAL IMPROVEMENT PROJECT IN KOLUBARA MINING BASIN
[click to view]

Vreoci čekaju preseljenje
[click to view]

Dulić: Ili Vreoci ili nema struje
[click to view]

Ekologija-Mesna zajednica Vreoci
[click to view]

Za uvoz struje dato 3,4 miliona evra
[click to view]

EPS kupuje zemlju u Vreocima
[click to view]

Počela eksproprijacija zemljišta u Vreocima
[click to view]

Eksproprijacija i nova ulaganja od vitalnog značaja
[click to view]

Vlada: Vreoci će ipak biti iseljeni
[click to view]

Kolubaru čeka 750 mil. EUR ulaganja
[click to view]

Predsednik MZ Vreoci prekinuo štrajk glađu
[click to view]

ZAPIS SADA ČUVA NOVO VREOČKO GROBLJE
[click to view]

Potraga za ugljem ugrožava ljude
[click to view]

Strajkuje gladju ispred groblja
[click to view]

Pоčela proizvodnja uglja u zoni vreočkog groblja
[click to view]

Prekinuti iseljavanje kod Kolubare
[click to view]

Preseljeno vreočko groblje za potrebe kopova "Kolubare"
[click to view]

Užas u Lazarevcu: Kuće poplavljene, prodavnice opustošene! Postrojenje "Kolubare" pod vodom!
[click to view]

Re-settling Vreoci
[click to view]

Vreoci ko Monte Karlo!
[click to view]

RB "Kolubara" omogućila prijavu korupcije na svom sajtu
[click to view]

MB Kolubara online application for anonymous corruption report
[click to view]

Tomić oslobođen optužbi za "malu Kolubaru"
[click to view]

Sutra počinje suđenje Draganu Tomiću
[click to view]

Kolubara:Sutra saslušanje uhapšenih
[click to view]

INTERVJU - MILORAD GRČIĆ: Iskorenili smo krađu i korupciju u Kolubari!
[click to view]

Kolubara mine "mired in crime and corruption"
[click to view]

Kolubarski lavirint (on corruption in Kolubara)
[click to view]

Budućnost je crna: Hvali sunce, drži se uglja
[click to view]

When environmental improvement becomes resettlement - lessons from Serbia's Kolubara mine
[click to view]

THE BALKANS ARE GIVING CLIMATE CHANGE THE FINGER
[click to view]

EBRD priznao greške sa EPS-om
[click to view]

Izveštaj o praksi preseljavanja domaćinstava u Kolubarskom lignitskom basenu
[click to view]

Usaglašavanje oko nove dinamike preseljenja MZ Vreoci
19 APRIL 2016
[click to view]

Media Links

Lignite locked
[click to view]

Vreoci cekaju preseljenje-konferencija
[click to view]

Vreoci, Savet mesne zajednice - Konferencija za novinare
[click to view]

Vreoci kao Monte Karlo na proveri
[click to view]

Protest u Beogradu
[click to view]

Rusenje kapele u Vreocima
[click to view]

Relocation and regulation of the river Kolubara
[click to view]

Open pits in Kolubara mining basin map
[click to view]

Photo album
[click to view]

Sideshow: Resettlement issues at the Kolubara lignite mine in Serbia
[click to view]

Vreoci: Kuće počele naglo da pucaju
[click to view]

Other Documents

Police patrols at the Vreoci's graveyard The Vreoci graveyard was relocated without the local community consent and under continuous police presence.
[click to view]

Protest in front of the EBDR office in Belgrade The citizens of Vreoci supported by the NGO Ekoloski pokret Srbije protesting in front of the EBRD in Belgrade, July 2011
[click to view]

Electricity or households The village of Vreoci is getting surrounded by the MB Kolubara's open mining pits
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorJovanka Spiric, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, vankajo(at)gmail.com
Last update27/04/2016
Comments