BIRN Fact-Check: Could Montenegro’s Army Protect Rivers From Illegal Exploitation?

Gravel exploitation on the Moraca riverbed near Montenegro's capital Podgorica. Photo: Government of Montenegro

After a National Council for Fighting against Corruption session, Abazovic said the authorities need help in protecting the Bolje sestre, an important water spring on the Moraca near the capital, Podgorica.

"The government will propose engaging the Montenegrin Army to protect the Bolje sestre water spring and the Moraca riverbed. There is currently no more endangered state interest than the water source of the Bolje sestre, and we should protect it," Abazovic told the media.

"Business involved in the illegal exploitation of gravel in the last decade was worth close to one billion euros. We should start repressive measures," he added.

The Bolje sestre water source is endangered by the long-term uncontrolled extraction of sand and gravel through concession works. According to government data from last June, these concessions were held by the companies Bemax, Cijevna komerc and Beton gradnja.

Meanwhile, the Regional Water Supply System and civic organizations warned that deepening the Moraca riverbed could impact the capacity of the Bolje sestre, which supplies the majority of municipalities on the Montenegrin coast with water.

In December, authorities suspended excavation works on the Moraca riverbed due to a drastic drop in yield of 80 per cent, but environmental activists reported that exploitation had continued despite the ban.

On January 14, outgoing Interior Minister and interim Minister of Defence Filip Adzic said that army could be engaged in protecting the Moraca riverbed from illegal exploitation.

But, according to the constitution and the Army Law, the government must seek higher authorities'...

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