Stojković Attorneys take part at the International Conference on River Protection in Southeast Europe

The Nature Conservancy and the WWF Adria, two of the most effective and wide-reaching environmental organizations in the world, invited the Stojković Attorneys to participate at the International Conference on River Protection in Southeast Europe that took place in Podgorica, Montenegro on 30 September – 2 October 2019.

Zoran Sretić, a senior legal counsellor at the Stojković Attorneys, took part in the Conference’s panel discussion on legal tools for river protection in Southeast Europe moderated by Phil Tabas, an US based environmental protection lawyer and Special Legal Adviser, at the Nature Conservancy.

Zoran described the current state of play in the Serbian water and nature protection legal system and identified main legal gaps in its capacity to provide a coherent and consistent legal protection of a free-flowing condition of wild and scenic rivers in Serbia comparable to the ‘durable river protection mechanisms’ (DRPM) of the Wild and Scenic River Act in the United States.

Zoran Sretić explained that the free flowing condition of wild rivers is not a protected subject matter under the Waters’ Act and Nature Protection Act as such. As a result, wild rivers going through the protected areas designated in accordance with the Nature Protection Act may still be exposed to developments modifying their natural free flowing state, such as small hydro power plants, capable of blocking fish migration routes, affecting the flow of sediment, threatening fish populations and wildlife that depend on the river and injuring the aesthetic quality of the river.

On the other hand, Zoran Sretić argued that the Nature Protection Act may be improved by introducing the concept of the wild and scenic river as a specific type of a protected area to be designated to conserve the free-flowing condition. As a result, zones of strict protection from developments could be established along the entire line of the designated wild rivers’ watercourses, riverbeds and riparian lands, instead of covering only some sections of wild rivers as it is the situation under the current designation practice. Alternatively, a specific law regulating the designation and protection of wild and scenic rivers with powers given to authorities to enforce the free-flowing condition may be considered, or individual law providing the DRPM to the specific river of special importance, similar to the Slovenian 1976 Soča River Protection Act.

Indeed, the Conference was a great opportunity for the Stojković Attorneys, to establish ties and exchange views with international nature protection experts from USA, Finland, Spain, Belgium and Western Balkans on good practice on river protection across Europe and evaluate opportunities for future cooperation in Southeast Europe.