Kolašin and Mojkovac: the cities of possibilities are destroyed by backward physical plans

Andrea Perišić


Tales from the Region



Both Kolašin and Mojkovac are graced by nature of unimaginable beauty. These are small towns, to which the surrounding mountains of Bjelasica and Sinjajevina offer an entire range of development opportunities, in a clean and ecological direction. If Montenegro truly aspires towards greening of the cities, they could be the examples of the kind of green cities Europe is aspiring to - self-sustaining, meaningful, organized

"Citizens of Kolašin, join us in trying to save the center of our city from excessive construction activities that the transport and the communal infrastructure, and even our good lifestyle, can neither support nor withstand" - reads the recently launched petition of the organization Zeleni Kolašin aimed at putting the Detailed Urban Plan (DUP) "Kolašin Center" out of effect. If the state of Montenegro truly wants to green the cities, the city of Kolašin, as well as the neighboring Mojkovac, could be the examples of green cities Europe is aspiring to. Self-sustaining, meaningful and organized. But that is not the case.

Both Kolašin and Mojkovac are graced by nature of unimaginable beauty. These are small towns, to which the surrounding mountains of Bjelasica and Sinjajevina offer an entire range of development opportunities, in a clean and ecological direction. These are cities where people make their livelihood mainly from agriculture and animal husbandry, where you can still breathe the clean air and not a mixture of by smog and exhaust fumes, and where one can still find a clean spring water. With the construction of the Bar-Boljara to Mataševo highway section, these cities now are even better connected with the central and southern part of Montenegro.

With a little work and knowledge, they could be like Bad Kleinkirchheim or Bad Gastein in Austria - towns that are spas and health resorts in the summer, and ski centers in the winter and where domestic production and tourism flourish. Both Kolašin and Mojkovac would attract all those who are interested in health tourism in the summer, and in the winter they could be real ski towns that can be reached and exited by ski slopes, i.e. cable cars/gondolas.

The concreting process

Instead of preserving the city cores and making smart use of the environment, the local and national authorities in these cities have different views on their development and they are adopting, at the very least, environmentally unaware and controversial decisions.

The process of concretization, or, as someone nicely noted in the comments below a text about the demolition of a famous 100-year-old house in Kolašin on Mirka Vešovića Street, the "Zlatiborization" of Kolašin has been going on for years, and there is also an announcement that a lead and zinc mine (Brskovo Mine) in Mojkovac worth almost 200 million euros will be opened. The intention of the investor, the Swiss company Tara Resources, is to deposit the waste materials of the mine in new tailings pits.

The Ministry of Environment, Physical planning and Urbanism (MEPPU) points out that no permit has been issued yet for construction of a lead and zinc mine, but the preparation of a planning document is in progress which looks at the possibilities of implementation of the project, taking into account the limitations such as erosive processes and protected areas in the environment, the remains of archaeological sites, forest and agricultural resources... "During the further development, care should be taken in establishing measures to prevent and mitigate the identified negative impacts, which may occur as a result of the implementation of the planning document", says this Government department for ResPublica.

As they explain, there are three scenarios (options) for the mine in Mojkovac. "The first scenario does not consider the opening of the mine, because it is in conflict with the contents that are defined by purposes. The second scenario implies the development and opening of mines in the locations of Žuta prla and Brskovo on the surface mines with the use of conventional flotation tailings, which requires an additional 90 hectares of area, which was not previously under the influence of the mining operations. The third scenario considers a mine on the same open pit sites with the disposal and treatment of the mining waste being dealt with via an integrated waste management facility (this is introduction of a new approach). With this innovative solution, the exploitation area is reduced to the area of ​​the flotation tailings, so the impact on the area is less compared to the other scenario. The plan with this scenario is to divert the Rudnica river in the section that is subject to contamination, where care is taken for the sustainable development and reduction of the negative impacts on the environment”.

Source: Влада на Црна Гора

As a reminder, Mojkovac has a history of struggle with tailings. There are still living memories of the old Brskovo lead and zinc mine, which was closed due to unprofitability in the early 1990s. The rehabilitation lasted 20 years after the mine stopped working, and it cost the citizens as much as 10 million euros.

Today, that area has been converted into a zone for rest and recreation. And that was a good decision, because it was about a multi-decade ecological black spot of Montenegro.

“The consequences are felt to this day - increase in the number of cancer cases, a large number of workers who died prematurely, a soil contaminated with heavy metals in the area of ​​the surface mine (arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium... this was shown by the research of the Center for Ecotoxicology in 2020 and 2021), the long-term and expensive rehabilitation of the tailings in the center of the city, the pollution of the river Rudnica, which in turn also polluted Tara river, contaminated water that flows out of the pits and the unreclaimed and abandoned surface mine", says Miodrag Fuštić from the Civic Initiative (GI) Zdravi Mojkovac for ResPublica.

However, according to earlier reports in the media, the planned two tailings pits of the new mine would be almost five times larger than the previous one.

At one of the public hearings, about the proposed Detailed Spatial Plan (DPP) for the concession area for exploitation of mineral raw materials – Brskovo and the draft Report on Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment, organized by the Ministry of Environment, Physical Planning and Urbanism, Gordana Đukanović, advisor at the Environmental Protection Agency, MA in chemical technology and engineer of inorganic technology, shared her opinion by saying that the issue of opening a mine in Mojkovac is "a matter of health, life and death for three generations". She also pointed out the failure to comply with all the procedures.

The draft Report on the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment of the DPP Brskovo warns that the works in that area would affect land, climate, water, habitats and biodiversity, protected areas, cultural assets, landscape, as well as people - in terms of air quality, water, noise, electromagnetic radiation and vibrations. It is also emphasized that this area overlaps with the transition zone of the internationally protected biosphere reserve of the Tara River, and that the area is in direct contact with the protected zone of the Biogradsko jezero and Durmitor national parks. It is also stated that the exploitation of ore can have an impact on Tara river, and thus on the National Park (NP) Durmitor.

It is also worth pointing out the opinion of the council for revision of the Plan for Brskovo, in which Dragomir Marković, in charge of physical planning, notes that the area "is identified as a potential area for ore exploitation... and at the same time it belongs to the biosphere reserve and the National Park - there are hardly two more conflicting/opposed uses, which is a paradoxical starting point for planning".

"The intention of the exploitation of the mineral resources of the Brskovo region is a continuation of the decades-long relationship between the center of the Government and the political elites towards the northern part of Montenegro and also towards an area exposed to wanton exploitation", says Fuštić.

As he points out, this is not an isolated case, but a systemic approach. "It seems that the entire Government strategy for the last 30 years is aimed at the impoverishment and depopulation of the north of the country, and the moment has come when the resources can be exploited indefinitely, as evidenced by the actions of the current Government and the Ministry of 'Environment', which have included a large number of plans that devastate the north. DPP Brskovo is only one of them, but in terms of possible consequences, it is the most disastrous".

Fuštić warns that experience has shown that mining on those deposits is unprofitable. "The trauma that has barely been removed is now being reborn with the document (DPP Brskovo) which plans large scale interventions that include surface mines and tailings in an area that enjoys dual protection (UNESCO zone of the Tara river basin, III buffer zone of the National Park 'Biogradska gora'), which is in contradiction with the basic purpose of the area. The planned activities are not foreseen by any Government plan, as well as local planning documents".

In addition, the fee that the Government would be receiving from the mine, Fuštić says, would be only a few million euros per year at best, while the concessionaire would receive incomparably more. "The total planned income for the Government would not be able to cover the recultivation, the restoration of the area, if exploitation takes place. This speaks volumes about the ruining nature of the project for the local community and the country, with real dangers of spreading of pollution to the entire region of the Tara and Lim basins (north of Montenegro, southwest of Serbia and east of Bosnia and Herzegovina). In addition to all that, the opening of the mine would cause emigration of 28 families, clearing of hundreds of hectares of forests, endangering settlements, closing jobs in agriculture and tourism...".

In addition to the Brskovo mine, other ecologically disputed spots in Mojkovac are also the quarry and the asphalt base in Štitarica, due to the unresolved issue of dust emissions during blasting and stone crushing at that location.

They planned a military training ground in Sinjajevina

How little is thought about the green future of Mojkovac, is perhaps best expressed by the fact that in previous years there were considerations to build a military training ground on Sinjajevina for conducting shooting and other military drills of the Army of Montenegro. That decision was met with a revolt by the locals and environmental activists, who spent many nights in the cold waters of Sava in order to prevent the artillery shooting exercises on this mountain - otherwise the largest pasture in the Balkans, and second largest in Europe and an area rich in drinking water sources. The protests were also supported by the representatives of the new authorities, with a promise that the military training ground will not be built in Sinjajevina. That question, however, is still open, because the decision on military training ground on Sinjajevina has not been revoked.

Meanwhile, the International Land Coalition - ILC (Civic Initiative ‘Save Sinjajevina’ is also a member of this Coalition since 2021) called on the Government of Montenegro to urgently decide on this and declare Sinjajevina a regional nature park which will be managed with a participation from local community.

In the middle of July, a Camp - Svi na Sinjajevinu was held in Sinjajevina, where various activities were organized - making homemade bread and kačamak, collecting medicinal plants, flowers and tea houses, tours of beautiful areas such as Sava Lake, organizing a cinema on Margita, karaoke and traditional games, making wreaths...

The intensive urbanization in Kolašin is not matched by an increase in the number of inhabitants

For weeks, the NGO Zeleni Kolašin has been warning about the shortcomings of the draft amendments and supplements to the Spatial-Urban Plan of the Municipality of Kolašin, and the public discussions on that were taking place until recently. It is, by the way, a strategic development plan that should be valid for a period of 10 years. The citizens have been waiting for these amendments for several years - the previous draft was not adopted, because it received a negative opinion from the Review Council.

Source: Општина Колашин

The analysis that the NGO Zeleni Kolašin has managed to do so far has shown that the plan is contradictory: "Although it insists on the importance of environmental protection and sustainable, decentralized future development of the city, the parameters prescribed by the plan tell a different story... For example, the draft foresees increase of urban areas from the existing 124 hectares to 482 hectares by 2030, which is an increase of almost four times for a period of less than 10 years. The largest part of this increase refers to the urbanized central part of the municipality, not only the strict city center), for which this plan envisages intensive new construction activities", it is said by the NGO Zeleni Kolašin.

As the activists point out, this is obvious in the regulations on construction of buildings with a height of five floors above ground in the very center of the city, where the allowed occupancy of the plot goes up to 100 percent, which means that the plan allows the foundation of the building to match the plot on which it is being built. "However, the plan also mandates that one part of each plot be covered with greenery, and that views of the surrounding mountain areas be preserved. How can this be achieved, if it is allowed to build tall buildings in a row that occupy the entire area of ​​the plot?" – is the question asked by this NGO.

They also claim that such a large increase of ​​urban areas will not be accompanied by a huge increase in the number of inhabitants. "The draft predicts that by 2030, the number of inhabitants in Kolašin will increase by 592, compared to the number from 2011. Therefore, the development of new urban areas is not answering the demographic growth – in that case, for whom are they building to this extent? If the plan envisages that the urban areas will increase almost four times, and that the number of inhabitants will grow by about 600, can we really talk about optimal use of the available space?".

MEPPU believes that the amendments to the PUP Kolašin were approached in accordance with the principle of sustainable physical planning and the intention of the state of Montenegro for development of tourism and prosperity of the northern municipalities. “The goal of drafting the amendments to the PUP is to review the physical planning solutions in the valid planning document, as well as the possibility of expanding the settlements and planning new contents compatible with the development strategy of the northern region. Considering the accelerated development of tourist and other offers, there is a need to build new facilities for tourist purposes, collective housing, central activities and the like".

However, as it is said by this Ministry, given that a significant number of lower-order planning documents are not in accordance with the real physical capacities and the valid PUP, it is necessary to review the current plans and give guidelines for their further planning development in accordance with the vision of the PUP, along with special guidelines for the DUP "Centar", DUP "Breza" and DUP "Smajilagića polje". "The urbanization and the implementation of the planning solution mandates the use of the existing construction areas for expansion of the settlement (only 35 percent of utilization of the construction area in the GUR indicates insufficient sustainability of current physical development and uneven distribution of the construction within the construction area".

No vision for protection of the Kolašin forests, rivers and land

It should also be pointed out that the objectives emphasize the importance of the forest protection and the promotion of agriculture and agricultural tourism, but the plan is to "take" 60 hectares of agricultural land, 100 hectares of forest and 200 hectares of other natural areas for such an increase in urban areas.

It is also interesting that the current form of the PUP draft does not pay enough attention to other recent initiatives for protection of the area of ​​the Municipality of Kolašin, such as protection of the river Mrtvica and its surroundings. "The plan leaves open several scenarios for construction of numerous hydroelectric power plants on Morača and Tara rivers, which is not in accordance with the postulates of environmental protection, nor with the ecological goals that the plan tries to promote, but, as we see, it fails to protect in its guidelines. We see this paradox in many other places - for example, the draft tries to promote the development of agricultural tourism and to keep golf as a 'possibility in the area of tourism development', although golf requires huge spatial resources and destruction of habitats with local plant species in favor of the development of a special grass substrate, which is achieved with the use of pesticides, therefore it cannot be compatible with protection of the environment”, is the warning raised by Zeleni Kolašin.

This NGO noticed that the planners literally copied the paragraph dealing with the issue of environmental protection from the text of the DUP "Kolašin-Centar" from 15 years ago. Since then, as they point out, a lot has happened in Kolašin - the construction of a new ski infrastructure on Bjelasica, the construction of small-hydroelectric plants and the struggle of local communities against such a development plan, the construction of a highway, the construction boom in the last year, the local consequences of global climate change... ,,Despite all this, the new strategic development plan of Kolašin does not see that there are any new challenges and issues in environmental protection, nor does it offer potential solutions. We are of the opinion that this speaks volumes about the care with which the draft of this plan was prepared".

Munich, Lisbon, Manchester,... have plenty of good practices which can be applied by other cities regardless of their size

In order for a city to be considered "green", it must meet nine criteria, according to the Earth.org website which is a global environmental movement that advocates for sustainable economic policy and management of planet Earth.

These criteria include percentage of public green areas and percentage of total energy needs from renewable energy, percentage of population that uses public transportation to go to work, the level of air pollution, water consumption per capita, accessibility of content on foot, availability of recycling and urban composting throughout the city, as well as the number of agricultural markets.

The top 10 greenest cities, according to Earth.Org, include Vienna, Munich, Berlin, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Manchester, Lisbon, Singapore, Amsterdam and Washington.

Vienna is known for its methodical physical planning, good public transport and green areas, which are a big part of its identity. Munich boasts an impressive transit system, while Berlin is made for walking and has one of the lowest per capita water usage rates in Europe. Madrid is pedestrian-friendly, as is Manchester, which has one of the highest public transport usage rates in Europe. Lisbon is recognized for its good recycling and composting programs, and Singapore for its gardens by the bay and huge parks that serve as "therapeutic gardens" designed for the elderly people. Amsterdam has many bicycle tracks, and Washington is a green oasis, full of public squares and parks. The last city on this list, which may come as a surprise, is Sao Paulo – due to the abundance of agricultural markets in the city,

Copenhagen, Zurich, Reykjavik, Ljubljana, Montevideo, Tokyo are also on the list of the greenest cities created by the specialized portal The Sustainable Living Guide.

These cities have plenty of good practices in all these areas which can be applied by other cities regardless of their size.

The MEPPU stated for ResPublica that it is increasingly difficult to achieve an even distribution of green areas in cities, but that it is being strived for. "The recommended optimal degree of greening at the city level is 25 square meters per inhabitant".

This Government authority explains that the vision of greening the cities is an integral part of every spatial and urban plan, but that the planning parameters are ignored. "By properly considering all the given planning conditions and with responsible and professional designing, it is possible to get much better spatial solutions out of the existing plans. The problem is often the neglect of planning parameters for greening in practice, so in the coming period it is necessary to focus more on the control how the planning documents are implemented, by ensuring revision of project documentation and the issuance of the necessary consents, with an emphasis on checking whether the prescribed planning parameters concerning the minimum percentage of green areas have been complied with".

According to MEPPU, the cities should be developed by preparing a new generation of planning documents that will follow the vision of the Strategy for City Development. "Outdated physical plans no longer provide adequate answers to the new challenges of the social and spatial development. Examples of good practice point to the importance of monitoring the dynamics and adapting urban planning models in order to make cities smarter, more humane and more resistant to new challenges and climate change, and at the same time better places to live. Some of the key aspects for achieving sustainable spatial development include urban renewal and transformation of brownfield areas, networking of green areas, management of atmospheric and waste water, establishing a system of public spaces, ensuring the quality of housing, improving sustainable mobility, realizing energy efficiency, encouraging a participatory approach to planning and creating an urban identity".

The position of this relevant Ministry is that it is necessary to increase the level of greenery in the cities with construction of green roofs and greening of building facades, which is largely a trend in the world. "In order to be able to implement all of this faster and more efficiently, changes to the existing legislation and regulations in the area of ​​physical planning are also necessary."

Fuštić believes that if there has been a lot of discussion in recent years of legalization of as many as 100,000 illegally constructed buildings, and about the threat to the source of the regional water supply for the coastal area of the country, it is clear that the state of Montenegro has lost control of the process of urbanization and the planned development of the cities at all levels. "The greening of cities should be a step that should follow after the basic steps which include regulation of construction of transport and other infrastructural elements. As a community we need to prepare for the advent of the climate change and try to mitigate its effects. Unfortunately, the lack of planning documentation and strategies or their non-implementation leaves room for further devastation of space and conversion in the use of the areas".

The MEPPU points out that, among the green projects important for Mojkovac, the project that stands out is "Rehabilitation of the unorganized landfill at the location of Zakršnica", which is located on the banks of Tara River and whose completion is planned in the next three years. Apart from this, they also plan to improve the wastewater management system in this city.

This Ministry also says that funds are provided for Kolašin, for construction of a recycling yard. They also plan to build a wastewater treatment plant and a sewerage network and improve the water supply.

Mojkovac today, Mr.Fuštić points out, is a city without public transport and only with a primary level of health care. "Of course, on paper there are active village clinics, but in reality they have been turned into chapels. It sounds morbid, but it is true. Residents of the village in Mojkovac are forced to pay expensive taxis, because there is no public transport, to get to the Health Center. Roads to most villages are bad. Turning away from the problem of undignified life in the countryside, both by local and national authorities, will not make the problem disappear. Therefore, road infrastructure, available services and innovation can improve the overall social, economic and demographic picture of Mojkovac, which can ultimately become a self-sustaining city", says Fuštić.

Similar problems are features of the life in Kolašin, which should rely on spatial resources and develop tourism and agriculture in parallel.

There is plenty of room for improvement and change in the approach to the urban development. Since the consequences of the climate change are felt more and more, year after year, time, simply, cannot wait.


The blog was created as part of the “Tales from the Region” initiative led by Res Publica and Institute of Communication Studies, in cooperation with partners from Montenegro (PCNEN), Kosovo (Sbunker), Serbia (Autonomija), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Analiziraj.ba), and Albania (Exit), within the project "Use of facts-based journalism to raise awareness of and counteract disinformation in the North Macedonia media space (Use Facts)" with the support of the British Embassy in Skopje.This edition of Tales from the Region is also done in partnership between ICS and the UPSURGE project, funded within the European Union’s Horizon 2020 under grant agreement No. 101003818.

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Andrea Perišić

Andrea Perišić is a freelance journalist from Montenegro. She writes for the independent weekly "Monitor" and the portal of the First Montenegrin Independent Electronic News (PCNEN), mostly on social issues - environment, education, equality, and health care. She participated in a number of seminars and attended several journalism training courses. She graduated in communication studies from the Faculty of Communication Sciences at the Aldo Moro University in Bari, Italy. She spent some of her education at Meiji University in Tokyo, Japan. Andrea lives and works in Podgorica.