In March 2022, new forest areas on Bjelašnica mountain were illegally cleared due to the construction of luxury apartment buildings within the Business and Sports Center Trnovo.
About 34 cubic meters of wood, i.e., 101 trees of fir, spruce, beech, and other species were cleared from plots the Municipality of Trnovo sold to private investors Butmir, Green Life, and Mia-Lamia from Sarajevo. According to the official record of the Sarajevo Canton Forestry Administration, the investors did not have the necessary approvals to clear the area to convert the forest into construction land.
No court actions have been taken regarding the illegal logging because the Administration, with the assistance of the Police, is currently trying to identify the responsible companies.
The major logging took place on the land owned by the Butmir company. The forest ranger visited the site in mid-March after the forest had already been cut down, and there he found workers of the Galanta company from Sarajevo cleaning the land from the remaining stumps. They claimed they did not know who did the logging. He received the same response from the staff of the company Hadžić-gradnja when a few days later he identified illegal logging on the lands of Green Life and Mia-Lamia in the immediate vicinity.
Representatives of the Butmir company did not respond to a call from a CIN journalist. The owners of the remaining plots claim the Municipality has issued them building permits, and they see nothing disputable in the fact that the forest was cleared from their plots.
The Director of Green Life Mirsad Šiljak says that the urban and construction permits issued to them by the Municipality do not state anywhere that they should seek approval for deforestation.
Kadrić Arnel, the owner of Mia-Lamia, claims he does not know who cleared the forest on the plot, but he holds that no law has been broken and claims to have a building permit: “Look friend, if you get a permit to build on a site, and if there are three trees on the site, what are you to do with them?
Amir Joldo, who was until recently director of the Sarajevo Canton Forestry Administration, said that he reported the illegal logging to the Police in order to collect data on the addresses of companies performing the works and those responsible. As he explained, the Administration should press misdemeanor charges against those responsible. According to Joldo, forest owners are obliged to take care of the forest. The Sarajevo Canton Forests Act envisages fines for illegal logging that may go as high as BAM 15,000.
Three years earlier, the Trnovo Municipality had asked the cantonal authorities for environmental consent and a permit for deforestation at the Trnovo Business and Sports Center on Bjelašnica to convert forest into construction land, but their application was dismissed because they failed to make an environmental impact assessment study. This study was supposed to show whether deforestation on this mountain is justified, what would be the impact of construction on flora and fauna, and whether there is any risk of drinking water pollution in Sarajevo.
The municipality has given up on seeking consent, and embarked on illegal logging, thus clearing more than 35 dunums of land. Most of the wood logs were milled into flour mass and donated to a private company from Sokolac.
After CIN reporters discovered the illegal activity of the Municipality, the logging was suspended, and the Sarajevo Anti-Corruption Office filed a criminal report to the Sarajevo Canton Prosecutor’s Office.
The latest project in Bjelašnica was presented by the Municipality as a center for sports and recreation, although a significant part of the area has been reserved for the construction of 14 apartment buildings. Most of the land was covered with high-quality forest.
There has not been any new logging in this area until early this year. The Sarajevo Canton Ministry of Agriculture claims the logging was done without their approval. The Cantonal Forestry Inspectorate also visited the site and found that the cut logs have not been marked or measured or registered in the log, which is – along with illegal logging – also a serious violation of the Canton Sarajevo Forests Act.