Sinjajevina inhabitants demand a consultation and more information about the Military Polygon

  • Dozens of families met to discuss about Sinjajevina’s situation regarding the installation of a military polygon and came into a main conclusion: Montenegrin Government has to respect their right to consultation.
  • Stanija Braunovic (video below), plant collector, talks about biodiversity at Sinjajevina and why it should be protected as a sanctuary.

Sinjajevina’s rich ecology and outstanding landscapes is not only a product of nature. It is also the inherited and cumulated work of pastoralist activities over millennia. Indeed, this area represents an increasingly rare symbiosis between human societies and the environment, and it stands as a marvelous example of sustainable development and cultural resilience for Europe and the world as a whole.

These complex ecosystems with their unique bio-cultural diversity exist because of the thoughtful use and concerted governance by local communities through generations. The ecosystem itself has been molded by – and fully depends on – the wisdom and traditional knowledge of these communities.

“The farmers we have on the basis of our customary law, the right to use katuns located on the common lands of Sinjajevina, which are today property registered in the name of the State”.

At Sinjajevina’s inhabitants meeting.

Regarding the installation of a military polygon, dozens of families depending on Sinjajevina to survive, gathered in different meetings to discuss about it and claim for a solution to their national Government. Here is the joint statment after the meeting:

“The Government never consulted us, nor provided us information from any relevant and independent empirical study regarding the possible adverse impacts on the environment or the populations of Sinjajevina, that might result from the proposed military camp. Even when the Government was handed a petition urging the protection of Sinjajevina signed by over 3.000 Montenegrins (the minimum necessary to open a public debate in the national parliament), the parliament simply ignored it, just as it ignored similar requests from the EU. Instead, the Government offered a study done in another military ground in Macedonia, in a completely different ecosystem, as a way to avoid providing first-hand information on the environmental impacts of Sinjajevina’s militarization, by which at the same time totally ignored any reference to the potential social impacts of the artillery ground that is of the utmost importance to us!

We would like to call attention upon a church dedicated to St. Basil which we believe should be protected as a cultural monument and not threatened by a bombing ground. We ask the government to support our youth to continue our legacy and not deprive them. The farmers we have on the basis of our customary law, the right to use katuns located on the common lands of Sinjajevina, which are today property registered in the name of the State. Moreover, local communities even claim that not only the common lands are being taken away from them by the military polygon, but even numerous private property plots are going to be hoarded by the State in the construction of the military camp even if the officially recognized owners have not given consent to transform them in a military ground! Many of the villagers have no other option for their living and livestock breeding than Sinjajevina!

Also, there is a large number of herbs that are medicinal, collected, sold, providing important livelihoods. Also a large number of us are engaged in beekeeping and we believe that a military training ground would destroy that branch of our livelihoods too. Villagers we are particularly preoccupied because a strong military presence in their territories would bring a strong disturbance in the region. Moreover, we fear that the artillery polygon will lead to disruption of groundwater flows and disappearance of existing sources, as well as soil and water pollution, and therefore also the villages and the cities below the highlands of Sinjajevina. No one will want to buy the meat or dairy products of an animal fed on a military training ground! And do tourists that complement our economies need to listen to the artillery shooting on Sinjajevina during the winter or summer seasons?? Farmers fear also being harmed by weaponry, or what would be worse, that our children are harmed, as also many unexploded bombs can stay behind!  Already in the last NATO military training on Sinjajevina in September 2019, they started shooting up there when people were still with their animals in the pastures!!  Most of us don’t leave until November and already a flock of goats was lost in the middle of the stress of the shooting. One animal even died falling from the rocks, but nobody defends us. We local farmers say that we would be ready to camp on the mountain like others did to defend their rivers and will not allow Sinjajevina’s destruction. We do not give the mountain at the cost of our living. Our mountain is ours, not the Government’s nor the NATO’s!”

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