FOREST HARVESTING ON THE PROTECTED LANDSCAPE KONJUH: “On the Kladanj’s side there is no ramp, no video surveillance nor the supervisors to inspect the trucks”

The protected landscape Konjuh is often protected on paper only and is no different from other forests in our country that are used for logging and timber theft, claim Inforadar’s interlocutors, activities from Tuzla’s Cardboard Revolution. They explain that the worst attitude on this protected area is on the side of Kladanj, where there is no ramp, no video surveillance nor the supervisors have a permission to inspect the trucks that transport the timber from the protected landscape.

“We have proved it with one video footage; we stopped the trucks. People are there but they are not doing anything, not because they don’t want to, but because they are not allowed to inspect the trucks and they have no purpose whatsoever. However, on the side of Banovići there is a ramp and at least some degree of protection. The key problem lies with Kladanj where Public Institution Protected Landscape Konjuh doesn’t exist, it has no purpose or role, which is a sufficient indicator of how much the law is respected there. The protected landscape was declared for the sake of form, there is no difference whatsoever between the tree in front of my building and the trees from where water is supplied to Tuzla, Banovići and Živinice. That is the main problem, there is illegal logging going on up there, it is clear to everyone, and it is all networked and is very difficult to expose”, started the story Adi Selman from Cardboard Revolution.

Zvjezdan Karadžin, professor and former minister of spatial planning and environmental protection of Tuzla Canton, said that the Public Enterprise “Šume (Forests) of Tuzla Canton” dd was cutting the trees where it is profitable for them, and were not doing sanitary logging of infested trees. He also added that no one is addressing this and that such practices should be changed.   

“I was trying to increase the budget to the protected area Konjuh when I was the minister, because there are only two to three rangers there, and they cannot cover the entire protected area. Šume of Tuzla Canton are problematic, because they have never performed well. That should be changed. I am not aware that this enterprise is exploiting the forests, but I have heard stories about people working there who get their child to the college and buy him an apartment. It is not done properly, a system should be made. We have forest, but it doesn’t mean it has to be logged randomly”, said Karadžin.

Our interlocutors haven’t been able to assess the monetary damage made by logging, and the Public Institution Protected landscape Konjuh, which is taking care of that area, also doesn’t have an answer to this question.

InfoRadar contacted the Public Institution Protected landscape Konjuh that said the procedure to install video surveillance has been initiated in September of last year, but that the ramp is a bit controversial as it is a regional road on which putting up of such facilities is not allowed.

“We are now waiting on a permit i.e. the opinion of the BiH Personal Data Protection Agency, as an authorized institution, concerning the possibility to set up video surveillance system in the Protected landscape Konjuh,” said the Public Institution Protected landscape Konjuh.

Area around Krabanja River 2018 and 2020 (Photo: Cardboard revolution)

On the other side, Selman from Cardboard revolution explained that there have been various reasons for not installing ramp s and video surveillance for a while already.

 “First, they don’t have a rulebook on video surveillance, then it cannot be installed on a regional road. We, as an association, had then prepare the rulebook on video surveillance, organized meetings with the Road Directorate of Tuzla Canton to have it done, but they still haven’t done it due to some fear. They haven’t told us the reason for not doing that, while the Public Enterprise Šume of Tuzla Canton and Kladanj Municipality are strongly against installation of the ramp and video surveillance, but we really know the true reason behind that as they do not want to say it officially. We will continue to pursue that ramp and video surveillance. We are advocating video surveillance where the rangers would have tasks to simply document every truck at the end of the working day and to have an archive of raw material expert. This would make identification of theft much easier”, said Selman.

Who is responsible for the supervisors?

The Public Institution Protected landscape Konjuh said for InfoRadar that their supervisors can, in line with the law, stop and inspect the vehicles that are coming in or out this area in case of reasonable suspicion of illegal action. We received the same answer that the supervisors of the Public Institution Protected landscape Konjuh can inspect the vehicles in case of suspicion of illegal activities from the Ministry of spatial planning and environmental protection of Tuzla Canton.

The Public enterprise Šume of Tuzla Canton d.d. Kladanj told InfoRadar that the work of supervisors is not under their jurisdiction.

“Truck transporting wood assortments are already being stopped by the authorized persons of the Public enterprise Šume of Tuzla Canton (internal control), cantonal inspection, Federation inspection, police officers”, said Almir Huskić, director of the Public enterprise Šume of Tuzla Canton d.d. Kladanj adding that they are not against construction of a ramp and accompanying equipment.

InfoRadar also contacted Kladanj Municipality that in its response said that it was ousted from jurisdiction when it comes to management of forests and forest land, including the protected area.

“Logging is done in zone B, which makes up 75% of the protected area”

A study on natural monument Konjuh was conducted almost 20 years ago, where experts determined and submitted to the government that Konjuh should be declared a natural monument. That proposal wasn’t adopted by the Government of Tuzla Canton, and the reason for this, according to Cardboard revolution, is the forestry lobby which did not agree with it.

Area around Zlača waterfall (Photo: Cardboard revolution)

After that, in 2008, it was time to adopt the Spatial Plan of the Tuzla Canton for the next 20 years, in which the Konjuh mountain is treated as a natural monument, and thus the time has come to protect Konjuh in some way.

“Considering the fact that the forestry lobby had declared boycott earlier, on its own initiative without experts’ opinion, Konjuh wasn’t declared a natural monument, but protected landscape that is a lower degree of protection than natural monument. Although the draft law did contain a concrete proposal, a new part was introduced some time during the legislative procedure allowing logging in line with the forest management plan. A ten-year logging plan was drafted after that without any consultation with either the municipalities or the protected landscape. Based on the forest management plan, which was drafted without any consultations, the trees were logged in zone B of the protected landscape, which makes up 75% of the protected area. There was no difference whatsoever between that forest and a forest in some other location”, explained Selman.

The Public institution protected landscape Konjuh said that according to the Law on declaration of Konjuh Mountain as a protected landscape logging is allowed on Konjuh in zone B in line with the forest management plan (FMP).

“The Assembly of Tuzla Canton has to amend the Law on declaration of Konjuh Mountain as a protected landscape Konjuh in order to stop logging in B zone of protection”, said from the Public institution Protected landscape Konjuh

Almir Huskić, director of PE Šume of Tuzla Canton d.d. Kladanj, said that any logging is primarily a growth measure aimed at attainment of optimal forest structure.

“Logging in zone B is done in line with the FMP, which means that the works are strictly controlled and done in line with the regulations in the forestry and water protection sectors,” said Huskić.

The struggle of activists for a higher degree of protection

In order to stop uncontrolled logging, activists of the Cardboard revolution filed a citizens’ initiative at the end of 2022 requesting amendments to the Law on protected landscape Konjuh. In line with the Constitution of Tuzla Canton this initiative was signed by the citizens of Tuzla, Banovići, Živinice, but also other cities.

“It has to be emphasized that this is the only protected landscape, in the world even, where logging in B zone of protection is allowed. We have referred to the international documents and domestic laws, and have in 2023 attempted to get it to the session of the government of Tuzla Canton. The authorities in this canton consider this to be a blow to the forestry sector, because they are pretty much oriented towards Konjuh and don’t want to focus on other mountains, but also on other ways of getting resources. They are oriented towards beech for furniture, and do not want to focus on pellet”, said Selman.

(Foto: Karton revolucija)

Selman: We believe that the ramp and video surveillance are good way, because it will be more difficult to steal wood once a good video surveillance is established (Photo: Carbon revolution)

Cardboard revolution explained that they originally wanted to protect the entire zone B, and have only then looked for a compromise. They proposed to the Government of Tuzla Canton to reduce the area where logging is allowed, as it is done in some other parts of BiH, and to designate several micro region that would be protected, while the remaining area would function as before.

“That was the reason for us to organize a meeting in May of last year that was attended by representatives of forest enterprises, various ministries, prime ministers, president of the Assembly. It was then agreed that the Government of Tuzla Canton establishes a working group in order to find a solution. The working group worked four or five months, and we have attended these meetings. It is important to mention that it was already agreed at that meeting to install ramp and video surveillance from Kladanj’s side. We believe that the ramp and video surveillance are good way, because it will be more difficult to steal wood once a good video surveillance is established”, said Selman adding that the Government of Tuzla Canton had passed the decision on construction of the ramp and installation of video surveillance, and already transferred the money to the Public institution Protected landscape Konjuh, but that so farnothing was done.

The information of the working group for consideration of the initiative to amend the Law on the declaration of part of the Konjuh mountain area as the Protected Landscape was adopted at the session of the Government of Tuzla Canton, held at the beginning of January this year. The funds in the amount of BAM 30.000 will be provided to review existing study on protection of the mountain that was developed far back in 2004.

“All of this should ultimately mean expansion of zone A of the protected landscape Konjuh to significant parts of zone B (in which logging is allowed) thus finally establishing quality protection of the mountain Konjuh; legally stopping logging in the most naturally valuable areas of the mountain, and consequently also stopping the potential corrupt actions that are present during the export of wood from the mountain Konjuh. If this process is completed, as it is reasonably certain, it would represent a great victory for activists and the most significant concrete move of the Government of Tuzla Canton when it comes to the protection of the mountain Konjuh in the last 20 years. Parallel to the aforementioned activities, the Government of Tuzla Canton had, through the competent Ministry of Spatial Planning and Environmental Protection of Tuzla Canton, sent an urgent request to the Public Institution Protected landscape “Konjuh” for prompt installation of a control ramp and surveillance cameras at the entry/exit point in the area of Kladanj”, read the press release of Cardboard Revolution.

Reports made to the inspection

The Cardboard revolution said that they have made reports to the inspection about the truck they have seen cutting down a certain amount of forest, but the inspection report claimed that something like that cannot be determined based on the information available.

The problem is that Šume of Tuzla Canton are logging and providing oversight at the same time. Above them there is only forestry inspection, and we only have three inspectors on the territory of the entire Tuzla Canton”, disappointedly concluded Selman. 

Inspection findings

He added that sanitary logging is rarely done, which they also reported to the inspection. He said that they have proved that some parts were never visited as to carry out sanitary logging, which requires more funds and time, and the trees that are infected and cannot be used for furniture are extracted.

“Concessions and forest management plans are at the cantonal levels and at that low level of authority everything is prone to corruption and lawlessness. We have Bosnian maple used to make violins, the price of few boards is between BAM 4.000 and 5.000. There can be huge profits and nature is the last thing we have left, and our trees are under incredible attack. What is worst of all, we are not talking about unprotected parts, but about the protected landscapethat is under attack. Imagine what is happening in other places, which are not of the highest value like forest on Konjuh, which is supplying water to the entire Tuzla Canton and which  is the last ecosystem in this canton that is disappearing”, said Selman.

Finally, he pointed out the very difficult situation concerning forests in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

It is a big problem that there is no law on forests, which is always in the procedure, and will never be adopted. The cantonal laws serve their own purpose, are controlling themselves, and making their own combinations, so the situation is extremely difficult”, concluded Selman.

Mirnes Bakija
Mirnes Bakija
Mirnes Bakija je magistrirao na Odsjeku za komunikologiju na Fakultetu političkih nauka u Sarajevu. Kroz svoj novinarski angažman najčešće izvještava o kršenju ljudskih prava, marginalnim skupinama, ali i drugim temama. Sarađivao je sa mnogim medijima i organizacijama civilnog društva u Bosni i Hercegovini i regionu.

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