Award for Slovenian river conservationist

The biologist Andreja Slameršek was awarded the Wolfgang Staab Nature Conservation Prize on 11th November, a recognition of her tireless campaigning against hydroelectric projects on the Mur and Sava rivers. The supreme administrative court in Slovenia has meanwhile ruled in favour of the river conservationists in the Mokrice case.

Environmental activists demonstrate with a banner

Andreja Slameršek at a protest rally for the Mur.

© Ludvik Rogan
Andreja Slameršek receives the Wolfgang Staab-Naturschutzpreis

Andreja Slameršek receives the Wolfgang Staab Nature Conservation Award 2021; to her right, laudator Ulrich Eichelmann.

© Tatjana Simeth

It is thanks to the efforts of the Slovene Andreja Slameršek and her fellow campaigners, with the support of a broad coalition of conservation organisations, including EuroNatur, that the Mur and the Sava rivers largely continue to be free-flowing wild rivers. The president of the Slovenian Native Fish Society (DPRS) succeeded in stopping several hydroelectric projects that would have destroyed the unique, ecologically valuable water meadow habitats of the two rivers. The Mur river in Slovenia has in the meantime become part of the Danube-Drava-Mur biosphere reserve which spans five countries.

“Without the efforts of Andreja Slameršek who combines technical expertise and untiring dedication to the task, the applications for the construction of hydro power plants on the Mur and Sava would surely already have been approved. Andreja is an important role model for all those campaigning for the wild environment despite the sometimes violent attacks by governments and public authorities,” said Ulrich Eichelmann, CEO of our partner organisation Riverwatch, in his laudation at the prize-giving ceremony in Munich. Andreja Slameršek coordinated, mostly on a voluntary basis, the submissions and actions of several conservation organisations in all the approval proceedings for the construction of hydroelectric power plants. She promoted networking between residents and various political and cultural groups and organised round table conferences, exhibitions and media campaigns.

There is now good news from the supreme administrative court in Slovenia. Slovenia’s government had categorised the construction of the controversial Mokrice dam on the Sava as being “of vital public interest”. The administrative court overturned the decision of the government that the supposed public interest outweighed the importance of the site to nature conservation. The Slovenian people have this year overwhelmingly rejected the proposed amendments to the national water management law.

However, the government in Ljubljana has clearly not learnt from this. The latest judicial decision is yet another slap for the environment minister Andrej Vizjak, who is planning to give a massive boost to the expansion of hydroelectric power nationwide. HESS, the company building the Mokrice dam, is hoping for another judicial proceeding and definitive planning permission for Mokrice. In this context they have been putting forward specious arguments such as the need for flood control. The battle for Mokrice is far from over.

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