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Villagers in Serbia tear out hydropower pipes in protest over river

Villagers in Rakita in southeastern Serbia have removed pipes installed to serve a new hydroelectric power plant on a nearby river.

The local people, who were helped by environmental activists, fear the installation could devastate fish stocks in the Rakitska river, cause wells to dry up, and deprive livestock of water.

"People are leaving the village. If there is no river, there is nothing left for them," explained resident Djordje Jovanov.

"There are people living nearby, they have cattle, they have gardens, the river means a lot to them," added another man. "And then, some investor came and snatched the river from them. He had no right to do that."

Around 100 small hydropower plants have been built in Serbia, according to the Environment Ministry.

The state power company offers strong incentives and commits to buying electricity generated by the plants at a price 50 percent higher than the market rate.

Supporters of the hydropower plants argue the environmental impact is well-known, but point to the far greater damage caused by coal-powered generation.

They say Serbia has to make a choice.

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