Study proves: Small power plants, big damage

European-financed small hydropower plants damaging pristine Balkan landscapes

The intake of the Tearce 97 (Bistrica 97) hydropower plant deep in the Shar Mountain nominated Emerald site. © Andrey Ralev

Prague, Radolfzell, Skopje, Zagreb. Eight hydropower projects in Albania, Croatia and Macedonia financed with European public money have damaged biodiversity and are in urgent need of increased monitoring and restoration measures, finds a study by CEE Bankwatch Network released today (1).

The hydropower plants were enabled by support from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB) and were built in 2013-2015. They are affecting endemic and endangered species, and in some cases they have also hampered local communities’ water use, the new study finds. In most cases, flagrant violations of national laws and international financial institutions’ standards are visible and include blocking fish passes, releasing insufficient or no water at all downstream, and creating significant erosion with access roads. National authorities appear to have imposed fines on the hydropower plant operator in only one of the cases.

“Our research shows that so-called small hydropower plants have large impacts. It is high time for financiers to stop investing in any industrial activity in ecologically sensitive areas”, says Igor Vejnovic, Bankwatch’s hydropower policy officer and the author of the study.

”Both European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and European Investment Bank will revise their lending policies in 2018. We expect them to introduce no-go zones for financing hydropower in line with the recommendations of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)” added biologist Ana Colovic Lesoska, from Eko-svest, Macedonia, one of the chief participants in the field research.

The study shows that it should have been reasonably obvious that projects in ecologically sensitive areas, such as national parks, would have significant impacts on wildlife. Nevertheless, the European public banks decided to proceed relying on environmental impact studies of dubious quality that had played down potential effects. As a result, these projects have caused the destruction of habitat of the endemic Prespa Trout in Macedonia and the filling of the glacial Black Lake in Albania with sediment, among other impacts. All this could have been prevented by excluding financing for projects in protected areas. The situation has been aggravated by governments’ inability or unwillingness to properly monitor and enforce legislation.

In three of the cases - Lipkovo (aka Kamena reka), Tearce 97-99 (aka Bistrica 97-99) and Ilovac - the sources of financing remained secret until recently. They were not directly financed by the European public banks, but through loans extended via local banks, which refuse to reveal which projects they finance.

“In the Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia alone, 15 more plants are planned. Given the impacts the Tresonecka hydropower plant is already having, plans for additional ones must be abandoned,” says Theresa Schiller from the EuroNatur Foundation.

“The EBRD and EIB’s money is still public money even when channelled through commercial banks. Yet the names of such projects are not disclosed by the banks and the public is denied the chance to influence their decision-making. Three cases covered by the study show what kind of impacts even small projects can have and that greater scrutiny is needed,” says Pippa Gallop, Bankwatch’s Research Coordinator.

Background Information
(1) The research covered the following hydropower plants
● Rapuni 1-2, Albania. Owner: C & S Construction Energy shpk (Albania), financed by the EBRD
● Ternove, Albania. Owner: Teodori 2003 shpk (Albania/Canada), financed by the EBRD
● Ilovac, Croatia. Owner:  Tekonet d.o.o (Croatia), financed by the EIB
● Brajcinska reka 1 (also: Brajcino 1), Macedonia. Owner: Mali hidroelektrani DOO (Macedonia), financed by the EBRD
● Brajcinska reka 2 (also: Brajcino 2), Macedonia. Owner: PCC HYDRO DOOEL (Germany), financed by the EBRD/KfW
● Tresonecka reka (also Tresonce), Macedonia. Owner:  Hidro Enerdzi Group (Macedonia), financed by the EBRD
● Lipkovo (also: Kamena reka), Macedonia. Owner: SOL Hidropauer DOOEL (Italy), financed by the EIB
● Tearce 97-99 (also: Bistrica 97-99), Macedonia. Owner: SOL Hidropauer DOOEL (Italy), financed by the EIB

The study can be found here.
It was produced as part of the campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”.

Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign:
About 2800 new dams are currently projected between Slovenia and Albania. In order to counteract this spate of destruction, ‘EuroNatur’ and ‘RiverWatch’ have launched the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign in cooperation with local partners in the respective Balkan countries. Find out more here: http://www.balkanrivers.net

Contact:
Anja Arning, EuroNatur, anja.arning(at)euronatur.org, +49 7732 9272 13
Igor Vejnovic, Bankwatch, igor.vejnovic@bankwatch.org, +420 773 140 691
Ana Colovic Lesoska, Eko-svest, ana@bankwatch.org, +389 72 726 104

Do you want to help?

Donation

Future needs nature. EuroNatur cares for it. Please use your possibilities to help. With your donation you will make an effective contribution to protect rivers in Europe.

News: Blue Heart of Europe

Hydropower projects on the Vjosa: Bern Convention opens case-file against Albania

++ Hydropower plant projects Poçem and Kalivaç to be suspended immediately. ++ Standing Committee to the Bern Convention recognizes imminent danger to...

Eco-Masterplan shows value of Balkan Rivers

++ 80,000 kilometers of rivers in the Balkans scientifically assessed ++ 76 percent thereof identified as no-go zones for hydropower development ++...

#GivingTuesday: Join in and help to protect our river treasures!

The countdown is on: November 27th is #GivingTuesday. This is the day when the initiative of the same name calls upon people all around the world to...

Launch for transnational programme to protect the Sava River

The SavaParks Network, which has been initiated by EuroNatur, received an EU funding grant for a new Sava conservation project. The launch event took...

Swiss river conservationist receives EuroNatur Award 2018

++ EuroNatur Award 2018 goes to Roberto Epple ++ Europe-wide launch of online campaign #ProtectWater on the 9th of October ++

First European Rivers Summit held in Sarajevo

++ 250 people attend Summit to save Europe’s rivers and stop the damming ++ Participants call upon EU and Heads of State to stop funding hydropower ++...

Another victory for the “Brave Women of Kruščica”

++ Women block bridge in Bosnia-Herzegovina for over a year to protect their river ++ New attempt by the investor to vacate the bridge has been...

Illegal construction works in Valbona-National Park are still going on

Charade of Justice in Albania: Different courts mutually cancel their decisions in the case of the planned power plant Dragobia. The suffering ones...

Blue Heart in the European Parliament

On Wednesday 27th June, there was a screening of the documentary film “Blue Heart” in the European Parliament in Brussels. In the subsequent debate...

Over 120.000 signatures against hydropower in the Balkans

++ Petition against the financing of dam projects in the Balkans signed by more than 120,000 people ++ Petition handed over to the EBRD in London...

Construction stop of hydropower plant in Valbona Valley

There is hopeful news regarding the Albanian Valbona River: The Administrative Appeals Court in Tirana ruled to stop immediately all the construction...

Bern Convention visits Vjosa in Albania

Representatives of the Bern Convention visited the Vjosa in order to investigate to which extent plans for hydropower development are jeopardizing the...

Brave women of Kruščica win court case against dam construction

A major court victory has been won by a group of activists protecting their community and river from the threat of new dam construction.

World premiere of the "Blue Heart" film

The film "Blue Heart" celebrated its world premiere at the disused Idbar dam in Bosnia-Herzegovina and delighted the audience.

International appeal to support the brave women of Kruščica

Women wanted: A global appeal to women to travel to Bosnia-Herzegovina on 28 April to occupy for an evening a bridge as part of the Blue Heart...

By using our services, you agree that we use cookies. Data protection