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3 Mar 2021

Samir Kajosevic, Balkan Insight

Montenegro probes Chinese highway builder’s damage to UNESCO-protected Tara River

"Montenegro Probes Chinese Highway Builder’s Damage to Protected River" 3 March 2021

Montenegro on Tuesday launched the first state investigation into environmental damage to the UNESCO-protected Tara River by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, CRBC, the main constructor of the Bar-Boljare highway.

“Contrary to law, the company started construction of a facility without submitting an application and set environmental protection measures. This has caused damage to the environment to a greater extent and in the wider area,” the prosecution in the town of Kolasin said in a press release.

The Bar-Boljare highway represents the Montenegrin leg of a larger highway that will run from the Adriatic coast to the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

CRBC is building the Montenegrin leg and 85 per cent of the first section is being covered by a $944 million loan from China’s Exim Bank. The first annual repayment of $67.5 million is due next year.

In June 2019, the prominent local watchdog NGO MANS warned that its actions were devastating the Tara River, including its UNESCO-protected area. It said the construction of bridges, as well as the exploitation and disposal of gravel and sand, had damaged the riverbed badly.

Dejan Milovac, from MANS, said the prosecution’s investigation was surprising as the authorities had previously ignored civic activist and environmental warnings. [...]