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Military Polygon on Sinjajevina, Montenegro

Save Sinjajevina! From a territory of life, traditional pastoralist communities and unique outstanding alpine landscapes of Europe, to a territory of death, warfare, and destruction!


The Sinjajevina-Durmitor massif mountain range is the second largest mountain pasture in Europe, an almost 1.000 km2 limestone plateau between 1,600 and 2,000 m with unique biodiversity built through millennia of pastoral uses and some of the most outstanding alpine landscapes of Europe. The area has been recognized through the creation and the projection of numerous Natural and Cultural protected areas, probably the richest region of its kind in all of Montenegro. An ancient and sustainable way of life in danger Sinjajevina’s rich bio-cultural diversity is not only a product of nature, but it is also the heritage of centuries of local pastoralist communities, a symbiosis of society and environment, and a legacy of sustainable social history. These genuine ecosystems exist because of the thoughtful use and concerted management, generation after generation, by the pastoralist communities. Thus, the ecosystem itself depends on the safe presence and activity of these communities. The highland pastoral settlements or “katuns” dispersed over the territory of Sinjajevina, belong to 8 major tribal groups, each with its own rules of commons’ governance concerning the timing of access to pastures, and the ways of using them to guarantee its durability. 

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Military Polygon on Sinjajevina, Montenegro
Location of conflict:Kolašin, Mojkovac, Šavnik, Žabljak and Danilovgrad
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Military installations
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Land
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In direct contradiction of the recommendation coming out of the 2018 study co-funded by the EU that expected to create a protected area in Sinjajevina within 18 months — and against all apparent rural, touristic, agri-food development and conservationist logic — last September 2019 the Montenegrin Government inaugurated a military training and weapons testing area in the very heart of these inhabited pastures, and within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and multiplicity of protection figures, with apparently no publicly available environmental impact assessment, no publicly available health evaluation, no publicly available economic impact study, nor any substantial negotiation with the affected pastoral communities.

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Project area:10,000
Level of Investment for the conflictive projectUnkown
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Directly about 250 farming families (1,000-1,500 people) using Sinjajevina, + more than 20,000 living in the villages surrounding Sinjajevina
Start of the conflict:29/03/2018
Relevant government actors:President of Montenegro, Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and the President of the Parliament of Montenegro
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Informal workers
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Recreational users
Local scientists/professionals
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Referendum other local consultations
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Noise pollution
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Fires, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…)
Potential: Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Deaths, Other Health impacts
Other Health impactsFear among locals is the physical danger of being struck by military artillery (in action or explosives left behind without detonating), as well as contamination of the waters through the artillery used, and that humans and animals drink, plants consume and which are at the same time consumed by humans and animals. And this impact on water could perfectly reach far beyond the site through underground water flows as this is a karstic zone.
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Increase in violence and crime, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood
Other socio-economic impactsAn impact is expected in the villages around Lipovo just under Savina lake (in the artillery testing polygon) and who have precisely a factory of water bottling due to their (up to present) reputed clean and highly healthy mineral waters. And the same goes for the plants animals eat and humans consume, endangering not only animal and human health, but their market as demand of meat and dairy products will undoubtedly shoot down and seems already to have started a slight downhill, while Sinjajevina produces one of the most valuable cheeses and milk products in the country, as for example traditional skorup cheeses sold at 25€ the kilo, an authentic fortune in a country where the mean salary is 300€ per month.
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Criminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Application of existing regulations
Proposal and development of alternatives:There is a relevant mobilization at the National level.

There has been almost 200 general press publications, TV and radio interviews in defense of Sinjajevina.

Several outdoors mobilizations, nearly ten in one year, some with over 300 people, and the movement has the general public on its side.

There is also a very active facebook page receiving supports from all over the country and beyond:

The movement is now searching its internationalisation. A blog in English is being built and an international AVAAZ petition. Several articles in English in international journals are also expected to be published in the next months.

The Civic Initiative Save Sinajevina on June 6, 2019, launched an online petition to declare the Sinajevina a protected area. The signing of the petition lasted until August 5, 2019 and during the collection of signatures it faced numerous challenges. About 15 people were involved in its promotion, but citizens were unable to vote because the public state portal refused to accept many signatures + the petition site used to be very frequently unavailable. The signature process itself was complicated by numerous time-consuming operations that have still not been prominently displayed nor explained by the Government. Because of this, the Save Sinajevina Civic Initiative started collecting ’on paper’ signatures in person at the villages around Sinjajevina. They also organized visits to the cities collecting signatures for Sinjajevina up to reaching more than 3.000, the minimum necessary for the Montenegrin Parliament to accept an issue into debate.

A few weeks before this, a meeting among small environmental organizations establishes the Coalition for Sustainable Development (KOR), with the main representatives of the Ozon Ecological Movement and organizations that had been fighting for ecology in Montenegro for two decades and supporting local communities in their struggles. The Coalition for Sustainable Development brings together people fighting for the protection of rivers, forests, mountains, lakes and all other natural resources of Montenegro needed by local dwellers, in addition to Sinjajevina.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:On September 5, 2019, after simply ignoring directly the petition signed by over 3.000 montenegrins and with no allegations what soever, the Government decides unilaterally on the formation of a military training ground in Sinjajevina (

The following week, at a Government session on September 19, 2019, the Government merely noted the existence of a petition.

On September 27, following the protests and after placing on the Sinjajevina area boundary markers and cutting paths, the Ministry of Defense organized a military exercise on the territory of the Municipality of Kolašin and Sinjajevina called "Joint Challenge 2019", which brought together NATO soldiers from Northern Macedonia, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, the United States and Montenegro. The villagers complained of harassment and property damage but still no care was given to this up to date (
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

The Last Nomads

On the process of being filmed. Online trailer coming up soon.

The Last Nomads

On the process of being filmed. Online trailer coming up soon.

“Sinjajevina is our only way of life”. Website of the campaign
[click to view]

The EU parliamentarian of the greens on Sinjajevina (Tomas Vajs)
[click to view]

Other documents

Pre-legal analysis plus DPINU
[click to view]

2-Synthetic Legal context
[click to view]

Other comments:As for the gentleman at the head of the militarization of Sinjajevina, Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic, he is a fondamental political player. All his life he is a member of the government or a director of a state-owned enterprise. He was the Minister of Economy, Education, Labor, Social Welfare, and now it is rumored that he will be director of the secret service. A political figure, not an expert in any field. Among other pearls they state that the future "military polygon has a zero influence on biodiversity"…
Meta information
Contributor:Save Sinjajevina NGO (, [email protected]
Last update26/01/2020
Conflict ID:4918
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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