The Bartlett Development Planning Unit


Tuzla: Energy Landscapes

This platform is the result of an experimental project that used film as a method for analysis and presentation of the whole energy systems.

Tuzla: Energy Landscapes

31 January 2012

The case-study is the energy landscapes in Tuzla, a city in the northeast of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tuzla is the scene of a heated environmental debate about the industrial complex TEP, a coal-fired power plant that provides 58% of the total electricity supply in the country. TEP, and its massive coal ash disposal sites, have transformed the local landscape and affected entire ecosystems and daily life. 

RECOAL, an EU research project, studied the regeneration of coal ash disposal sites between 2005 and 2008. The project found that coal ashes were highly alkaline and they were rich in metals and semimetals such as Arsenic, Chromium and Nickel. Chemical changes during transport increased the toxicity of arsenic in the sites. However, radioactivity levels did not exceed "normal concentrations" known for natural soils. Comparison with analyses in old sites suggested that there was natural attenuation of pollution levels with time.

This online space shares media fragments of a journey back to Tuzla in October 2011. All these pieces explore the root of environmental disputes, and the extent to which managerial solutions can make a difference in the lives of local citizens, industry managers and policy makers. Visit Tuzla: Energy Landscape.

The context

The politics of energy production in Tuzla

The civil war (1992-1995) divided the country in two entities (Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) and established a three-member presidency representing three ethnic groups (Serb, Bosniac, Croat). The war divided all kind of institutions along ethnic lines including the former vertically-owned public energy utility. Today there are three public utilities for production of energy in Bosnia and Herzegovina and a transmission company: the largest of these is the Bosniac Elektroprivreda Bosne i Hercegovine, based in Sarajevo alongside a Serbian and a Croatian companies in the cities of Banja Luka and Mostar, respectively. 

The control of energy production is a powerful political weapon. Because of its political privileges and the prioritization of energy production as a national interest issue, TEP is exempted of certain local and regional regulations. The ethnically-based ownership system is seen with suspicion by local leaders and residents in Tuzla. This is more so as the government party that dominates local politics- the Socialist Democratic Party espouses multiculturalism as its central tenet. The negotiations and vocal conflicts between the Tuzla Municipality and the Federation-controlled TEP represent an expression of an ongoing tensions between nationalist-led central governments and socialist-inspired local movements.

Local activism and environmental pollution 

There are 14000 people, living in the communities of Husino, Bukinje and Sicki Brod. Local residents claim that the production of energy at the power plant affects
their health and the environment. Local doctors confirm there is poor health in the area. Local vulnerabilities result from the combination of environmental pollution, poor health, loss of livelihoods, industrial decline and unemployment and lack of access to institutions. They are also shaped by local understandings of underlying environmental and socioeconomic processes.

Local residents have been preoccupied with their environment since the 1980s. In 1989 they convinced TE Tuzla to recultivate one unused site. However, after the war, local residents saw little attention to their demands. Since the end of the 1990s, supported by existing local action groups, the local communities have organized different forms of environmental activism. They have used their own empirical methods to find evidence about the presence and impact of pollution, either from the sulphur emissions or from the particulates from the coal ash disposal sites.
Local residents, in partnership with the Municipality, conducted an epidemiological survey in 2005 that, according to them, demonstrates the high death rates in this communities. This epidemiological observations are the main grounds for their argument about the sites being radioactive.

Driver of change

Since 2005 TEP has implemented measures responding to concrete demands both within local communities in surrounding areas and the Tuzla Municipality. Measures include: 1) new smoke filters; 2) recultivation of inactive coal ash disposal sites (including some reforestation); 3) return of land ownership to the Municipality of one disposal site; 4) contributing to the financing of a district heating system communities around the plant.

TEP had special privileges which excluded it from national and cantonal regulations. Now, some local residents argue, TEP has been forced to change its attitude both to attract capital and to expand production to meet export demands. The main drivers for change are: 1) the need to engage with local communities and institutions in negotiations for the sitting of a new production block and a disposal site; and 2) the need to demonstrate that it meets international standards.

Both the Municipality and TEP stress the need to develop a partnership-based approach. Local residents, however, remain unconvinced of TEPʼs commitment to the area. Visit Tuzla: Energy Landscape. 

The short film

Tuzla Energy Landscapes is an experimental short film exploring the root of environmental disputes about Bosnia and Herzegovina’s largest power plant, TEP.

The film was shot over 7 days in October 2011 by development videographer Gynna Millan Franco. The film aim is to create a locally-accessible overview of Dr Vanesa Castán Broto’s ‘Energy Landscapes’ research, which has examined local perspectives on pollution and environmental justice since 2005. 

Bringing together the voices of different stakeholders, Tuzla Energy Landscapes examines the extent to which managerial solutions can make a difference in the lives of local citizens. Ultimately, it aims to enhance constructive dialogue between citizens, industry managers and policy makers in the region, and to empower the local community to participate in dialogues about their environment. 



Castán Broto, V. (2012) Exploring the lay/expert divide: the attribution of responsibilities for coal ash pollution in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Local Environment, 17(8): 879-895. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13549839.2012.714753

Castán Broto, V. (2012) Environmental conflicts, research projects and the generation of collective expectations: land regeneration research in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Public Understanding of Science, 21(4): 432-446. Available at: http://pus.sagepub.com/content/21/4/432

Castán Broto, V. (2011) Research teams and the performance of environmental science, Science as Culture 20(3): 329-348. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09505431.2010.544298

Castán Broto, V.Burningham, K., Elghali, L., Carter, C. (2010) Stigma and attachment: performance of identity in an environmentally degraded place. Society and Natural Resources 23: 1-17. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08941920802705776

Castán Broto, V., Carter, C. (2010) Environmental justice within local discourses about coal ash pollution in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Pavlich, D. (ed.) Managing Environmental Justice, Amsterdam, NY: Rodopi. Available on request.

Castán Broto, V., Carter, C., Elghali, L., (2009) The governance of coal ash pollution in post-socialist times: when local realities don’t match expectations. Environmental Politics 18 (2): 279-286. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09644010802682643

Castán Broto, V., Tabbush, P., Burningham, K., Elghali, L., Edwards, D. (2007) Coal ash and risk: four social perspectives on a pollution landscape. Landscape Research, 32(4): 481-497.Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01426390701449851

View Tuzla: Energy Lanscapes here. 

Vanesa Castan Broto

Vanesa Castan Broto
Send and email

Gynna Millan

Gynna Millan-Franco
Send an email

Gynna Millan

Kate Burningham
Academic Consultant
Send an email

Gorica Stevanovic

Gorica Stevanovic
Send and email

View Tuzla: Energy Lanscapes here.