National Park at risk from power plants

Activists worry that streams like this in the National Park will be destroyed. Photo by Theresa Schiller

SKOPJE - Protest groups have called for the suspension of plans for 17 hydropower plants in Macedonia over fears of environmental destruction. The Standing Committee of the Bern Convention has recommended to the Macedonian government that plans for the large plants be halted until a full risk assessment can be made.

 There are already several small hydropower plants inside Macedonia’s Mavrovo National Park, but the leading body for European wildlife protection is protesting any further building over fears it would lead to irreversible eco damage. Since 2015, the group have been pressing the government to consider environmental factors, and have asked for confirmation of Skopje’s status as a national park, which would give the landscape official protection.

 Ana Colovic Lesoska, from activist group Eko-svest, has explained that “such projects should not be allowed in protected areas. The recovery of the ecosystem is impossible when the water regime is inconsistent or riverbeds are left to dry.”

 The protesters are most concerned about the Boskov Most and Lukovo Pole plants. Dedicated campaigning has led to decreased funding for the plants, but activists are asking for formal suspension of the power stations. “Hydropower plants are inconsistent with biodiversity conservation and don’t belong in protected areas like Mavroro National Park,” is a common theme reiterated by Theresa Schiller from EuroNatur.

 Environmental campaigners have expressed their dismay at the government’s seemingly slow response to calls for change. Aleksandra Bujaroska from the Macedonian NGO “Front 21/42” has cited the National Law on Nature, as well as the recommendations from the Bern Convention as in “collision” with the government’s current attitude to opening the power stations. Activists have also flagged up that the rare Balkan lynx resides in the Mavrovo park. In their view, as only 30 mature lynxes exist in the wild, this is an extra reason to ensure that the park receives national park status.