New hope for Balkan rivers, hydropower projects quashed
MAVROVO -- Funding for the two large hydropower projects in Mavrovo National Park, Macedonia, has been axed, Riverwatch said Tuesday.
After the World Bank withdrew from financing the hydropower plant ‘Lukovo Pole’ already in December 2015, now also the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) declared it would pull out of the project ‘Boskov Most.’ This is another stage victory for the protection of Balkan Rivers from destruction by the hydropower industry.
“This step by the EBRD was long overdue. Hydropower plants are inconsistent with biodiversity conservation and have no place in protected areas like Mavrovo National Park,” says Gabriel Schwaderer, speaking for nature conservation foundation EuroNatur.
The Boskov Most project already rested on shaky foundations: The Standing Committee of the Bern Convention (one of the most important environmental agreements in Europe) called on the government of Macedonia in December 2015 to suspend all construction projects in Mavrovo National Park and to conduct a Strategic Environmental Assessment. This assessment is still lacking.
Furthermore, in May 2016 the administrative court of Macedonia declared the licence for the construction of ‘Boskov Most’ void on the grounds that the Ministry of Environment had granted the licence in 2012 on the basis of an utterly inadequate and incomplete environmental impact assessment and has therefore violated national environmental law,“ says Aleksandra Bujaroska for the Macedonian environmental organisation Front 21/42.
“After five years of intensive advocacy work, we welcome the decision by the EBRD to finally listen to our concerns and to withdraw from financing Boskov Most. Mavrovo National Park is one of the last areas where reproduction of the extremely rare Balkan lynx has been proven. Constructing hydropower plants and the associated infrastructure would destroy one of its last habitats”, says Ana Colović Lesoska for the Macedonian environmental NGO Eko‐svest. The Balkan lynx is a subspecies of the Eurasian lynx and is considered critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Apart from that, Mavrovo National park harbours far more than 1000 animal and about 1500 plant species and is one of the biodiversity hotspots in Europe.
While the EBRD’s decision means that the hydropower projects in Mavrovo National Park lost another major financier, this European natural treasure continues to be under threat. There are plans for 17 more plants – smaller, but no less dangerous. “Contrary to popular opinion, small is here not beautiful. In total, many small hydropower plants entail similarly disastrous ecosystem destruction as big ones. We will continue campaigning until these projects have been dropped, too”, says Ulrich Eichelmann, coordinator of the campaign ‘Save the Blue Heart of Europe’ at Riverwatch.