Serbian anti-mine activists block bridges and roads | Environment News
Environmental groups are angry at a recent referendum reform and oppose a new expropriation law, which allows the acquisition of private land.
Skirmishes have erupted in Serbia between police and demonstrators who have blocked roads and bridges to protest new laws which they say favor the interests of foreign investors and harm the environment.
The government has offered mineral resources to companies such as Chinese copper miner Zijin and Rio Tinto, but activists say the projects will pollute land and water.
Hundreds of people appeared simultaneously in the capital, Belgrade, the northern city of Novi Sad, and other places on Saturday to block major bridges and roads for an hour in what organizers described as a warning blockade. They promised further protests if the laws on expropriation of property and the referendum were not withdrawn.
Environmental groups and civil society organizations are angry at a recent referendum reform, which they say will effectively end popular initiatives against polluting projects by setting high administrative costs. They also oppose a new expropriation law, which allows the compulsory acquisition of private land by the state within eight days.
Activists argue that the measures will pave the way for foreign companies to bypass popular discontent over projects such as Rio Tinto’s offer to launch a lithium mine in western Serbia.
“I’m angry because we are an occupied countryâ¦ I don’t know why [other] people are silent, âsaid Marija Popovic, 35, a protester in Belgrade.
Serbian authorities have dismissed the charges, saying the new laws are needed because of the infrastructure projects. President Aleksandar Vucic has declared that a referendum will be held on the Rio Tinto mine.
Experts have warned that the planned lithium mine will destroy farmland and pollute water.
Rio Tinto said it will adhere to all national and European environmental standards at the site. It plans to invest $ 2.4 billion in the project, according to Vesna Prodanovic, director of Rio Sava, Rio Tinto’s sister company in Serbia.
After decades of neglect, Serbia has faced major environmental problems such as air and water pollution, poor waste management and other problems.
Serbia is a candidate country for EU membership, but little progress has been made so far in improving the country’s environmental situation.