Bosnian woman awarded ‘Green Nobel’ for fighting to save river
Maida Bilal endured being beaten and harassed when she spent more than 500 days guarding the site of a planned mini hydropower plant on Bosnia's Kruscica River with a team of women from her village before the building permits were annulled.
That battle in central Bosnia may have been won back in December 2018, but she is still on the frontline in the fight against other proposed plants across the Balkan country and has now been honoured with a so-called "Green Nobel".
The 40-year-old was the named European winner of the 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize, that honours grassroots environmental pioneers from six regions around the world.
"We have defended the river for 503 days, physically 24 hours a day," Bilal told Reuters. "If needed, we'll guard her for another 5,300 days."
In the summer of 2017, the villagers prevented heavy machines from crossing a wooden bridge on the route to the building site, saying the project would ruin the environment.
She said they endured an attack by police who she says forcibly moved them for violating public peace and order.
But they fought on till the permits were revoked a year and a half later.
"I lost my job, I lost my friends, my daughter was bullied in school," Bilal, a trained economist, said. But she said it was worth the fight.
The virtual prize-giving ceremony hailed the winners: "These everyday heroes demonstrate the power of grassroots activism in the fight to protect our planet."