Save Sinjajevina!

Campaign description

Save Sinjajevina!

A territory of life, traditional pastoralist communities and unique outstanding alpine landscapes of Europe threatened by a military polygon

The Sinjajevina-Durmitor massif is the second largest mountain pasture in Europe, an over 1000 km2 limestone plateau between 1600 and 2000 m with unique biodiversity built through millennia of pastoral uses. A project to build a military training polygon in the area of Sinjajevina, the south-eastern half of the massif, threatens not only its biodiversity and ecosystem services dependent of […]

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The Sinjajevina-Durmitor massif is the second largest mountain pasture in Europe, an over 1000 km2 limestone plateau between 1600 and 2000 m with unique biodiversity built through millennia of pastoral uses. A project to build a military training polygon in the area of Sinjajevina, the south-eastern half of the massif, threatens not only its biodiversity and ecosystem services dependent of pastoralists’ way of life, but also the livelihoods of thousands of people around it.  Sinjajevina is in the very heart of the Tara Canyon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and has two UNESCO World  Heritage sites at its northern border. 

 

AN ANCIENT AND SUSTAINABLE WAY OF LIFE IN DANGER

Sinjajevina’s rich bio-cultural diversity is not only a product of nature, it is the heritage of centuries of local pastoralist communities, a symbiosis of society and environment, and a legacy of sustainable social history. These genuine ecosystems exist because of the thoughtful use and concerted management, generation after generation, by the pastoralist communities. Thus, the ecosystem itself depends on the safe presence and activity of these communities. The highland pastoral settlements or “katuns” dispersed over the territory of Sinjajevina, belong to 8 major tribal groups, each with its own rules of commons’ governance concerning the timing of access to pastures, and the ways of using them to guarantee its durability.

 

LOCALS VS THE MILITARY POLYGON

In September 2019, midway through the process of declaring Sinjajevina a Regional Natural Park, the Montenegrin Government inaugurated an artillery polygon and began military training and weapons testing in the heart of these pastures, within the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This has been undertaken without any publicly available environmental impact assessment, no publicly available health evaluation, no publicly available economic impact study, nor any consistent negotiation with the affected pastoral communities or any apparent respect for their legal rights. The government ignored more than 3000 Montenegrin citizens signing a petition launched by local associations and the main environmental organizations of the country, asking the military encampment to be stopped.

Construction and use of an artillery site, not only concerns local people’s traditional rights to nature from a legal point of view, but also from a scientific point of view the pastoral ecosystem itself and the ecosystem services it provides depends on the safe presence and activity of the pastoral communities that is being seriously threatened by this military polygon. 

Military uses could also pollute the water and harm the humans and animals that drink it. The epicenter of the military polygon is Savina Vode, the most important source of water in the highlands. Water is the main limiting factor for human life and livestock in Sinjajevina

Impacts on the local plants endanger not only the animals and humans that consume them, but also the market for meat and dairy products. Who would like to buy products from an artillery bombed ground and old weapons dumpsite?

Facing these facts, local communities and activists all around Montenegro and other European countries have started to join and plan actions to denounce Montenegro government’s felony towards its own people.

 

BIOLOGICAL RICHNESS OF SINJAJEVINA

Sinjajevina is identified as Important Plant Areas (IPA), part of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Tara River Basin and is bordered to the north by the Durmitor National Park, one of the oldest in the Balkans. Sinjajevina is also a proposed EMERALD site which implies its automatic declaration as NATURA 2000 area. While Montenegro is in accession talks with the EU the establishment of the European ecological network NATURA 2000 is an imperative before entering.

A larger site for birds protection is also proposed. According to the Montenegro National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2016-2020, Sinjajevina should be declared as regional park before the end of 2020. For bird species of open rocky areas, namely rock partridge (Alectoris graeca), tawny pipit (Anthus campestris), horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), and common rock thrush (Monticola saxatilis), Sinjajevina is the most important area in Montenegro. Sinjajevina is also the hunting ground of 5 to 10 pairs of golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) that nest in the surrounding canyons of Bukovica and Tara Rivers. The few boreal forests at the edge of the plateau are inhabited by capercaillies (Tetrao urogallus) and other boreal species and rare moors host a small population of corncrake (Crex crex). The Balkan meadows viper (Vipera ursinii macrops) is a Balkan endemic subspecies that inhabits high mountain grasslands of the Dinaric Arc (Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia and Hercegovina, Serbia, North Macedonia and northern Albania). Being the second largest mountain pasture in Europe, Sinjajevina is one of the most important or the most important site for this species.

Photo credits and more information:
https://sinjajevina.org/

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Our Needs

Online help
Are you a law expert with knowledge of EU accession procedures and/or international law? Then your help is needed! Please refer to the below TORs and get in touch.

Terms of reference:

We need information about Montenegro’s steps for EU adhesion concerning nature conservation and rights of people to a healthy environment related to the Save Sinjajevina campaign. In particular we need contributions to the following questions:

  1. What has the accession process to the EU been like since first talks started and up to present?

  2. What are the expected milestones, deliverables, calendar and key deadlines, particularly in relation to Chapter 27 about the environment, but also others?

  3. What key obligations and criticism have been addressed to Montenegro by the EU regarding nature-conservation, the environment, citizen society involvement, public participation, rule of law, etc.?

IT work Urgent
  • Your help is needed!
Social media expertise
On-site help

  • Participation in actions

  • Help to local people

  • European youth voluntary work camp


  • Biological surveys

  • Agro-economical surveys

  • Ethnographic fieldwork

  • Historiography

  • Alternative reports, etc.

Online and on-site work
Photo and video (incl. drone) reporting, journalism

Languages we speak

  • English
  • Spanish

What we do

What we offer to volunteers

  • Accommodation
  • Birdwatching
  • Pastoral and farming observation
  • Trekking
  • Wildlife watching

Videos about the campaign

Documents

Protection_project-Sinjajevina-1.ppt

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