Bern Convention demands provisional stop for the construction of hydropower plants in Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia

The river Radika would be affected by water diversion and daily flushes of the hydropower project Boskov Most.

© Romy Durst

Stage win for nature protection +++  EBRD and World Bank shall withdraw from projects +++ Further assessment requested

 

Joint press release by Riverwatch and EuroNatur, 7 December 2015


Radolfzell, Vienna. For the time being, no hydropower projects are to be built in Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia. This was decided at the meeting of the Bern Convention Standing Committee – Europe’s most important nature convention – in Strasbourg last Friday (December 4, 2015). According to this decision, the Macedonian government must stop all construction projects inside the national park and conduct an extensive Strategic Environmental Assessment. The recommendations are also directed at the international financiers of the hydropower projects, particularly at the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and the World Bank, which intend to fund the two biggest projects. In total, the Macedonian government is planning the construction of 22 hydropower plants within the Mavrovo National Park.

The Bern Convention now demands a Strategic Environmental Assessment, which involves examining the cumulative effect of all projected hydropower and infrastructure projects in the Mavrovo National Park. “This is a stage win for nature protection. We call on the banks to withdraw from the projects, effective immediately. From the Macedonian government, we expect the implementation of all recommendations of the Bern Convention“, says Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of nature conservation foundation EuroNatur, who participated in the meeting of the Bern Convention Standing Committee as observer. “We will precisely analyse the results of the stipulated environmental assessment. The construction of hydropower projects inside the Mavrovo National Park stands in stark contrast to the goals of protection. For this reason, we expect that the assessment will lead to the ultimate stop of the projects”.

Originally, the Secretariat of the Bern Convention had prepared significantly more far-reaching recommendations on the basis of a comprehensive expert report. This report was weakened due to political pressure by the Macedonian government. Macedonia was backed by countries planning similar hydropower projects in national parks and other nature conservation areas.

“A total of 113 hydropower plants are projected in midst of national parks in the Balkans. On that account, the decision about the projects in Mavrovo National Park is of high significance. Hydropower plants have no place in national parks”, says Ulrich Eichelmann from Riverwatch.  

The Strategic Environmental Assessment ought to give special attention to the flora and fauna that was decisive for the nomination of the Mavrovo National Park as Emerald site. Emerald sites correspond to Natura 2000 areas in European counties outside the European Union. The Bern Convention recommends to particularly examining the effect of the planned projects on the Balkan Lynx, a subspecies of the Eurasian Lynx that has been classified as acutely endangered by the World Conservation Union IUCN. The Mavrovo National Park is the last known area, in which this extremely rare cat is still reproducing. Furthermore, with 1,138 currently known animal species and 1,435 plant species, the Mavrovo National Park is a European hotspot for biodiversity.


Background information:

  • Due to the opposition of Macedonian NGOs in cooperation with EuroNatur Foundation, Riverwatch as well as numerous other stakeholders, the Bern Convention Standing Committee decided to initiate proceedings against Macedonia and to send an expert commission in December 2014. The results of the in situ fact finding mission served as  basis for discussion and decision-making at the meeting of the Bern Convention Standing Committee on December 1-4, 2015
  • Bern Convention: Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats
  • Macedonia ratified the Bern Convention in 1997. Recommendations of the Bern Convention are binding for member states and a violation is a breach of international law.  
  • About the campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe“:The hydropower dams in Mavrovo National Park constitute only one wave of a true dam tsunami that is putting Balkan Rivers at risk. About 2700 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 partner in the respective Balkan counties. Find out more here: http://www.balkanrivers.net/

  • The campaign's partners in Macedonia: Front 21/42, Eko-Svest, MES



Contacts:
EuroNatur, Konstanzer Str. 22, 78315 Radolfzell, Tel.: +49 7732 - 92 72 10, katharina.grund(at)euronatur.org, contact person: Gabriel Schwaderer, press contact: Katharina Grund

Riverwatch: contact person: Ulrich Eichelmann, Tel.: +43 676 6621512, ulrich.eichelmann(at)riverwatch.eu

How you can 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 a more livable environment.

Sustaining membership

EuroNatur focuses on long-term nature conservation projects instead of quick fixes. With your regular donations, you give us the planning security we need.

News

Attention for Red4Nature campaign

On 22 and 23 June, artists and EuroNatur employees attracted attention in Brussels with two high-visibility events. With artworks and a flash video,…

Albanian Government signs commitment to establish a Vjosa Wild River National Park

++ Albania takes an important step towards protecting the Vjosa River as government signs commitment to collaborate on Europe’s first Wild River…

EU recovery plans – a threat to nature

++ The Recovery and Resilience Facility (EUR 672.5 billion) – claimed by the European Commission to be the main driver for Europe’s ‘green recovery’ -…

New Brown bear project just started

An important step for the protection of the Dinaric-Pindos bear population: In close cooperation with our partners in the Balkans and the Italian…

Putin's war of aggression and the EU’s Energy Crisis

Russia invaded Ukraine. Our blog-author Bruna Campos is still shocked by what is happening. War is sickening and there is never an excuse to start…

Bird conservationists campaign for a safe Adriatic Flyway

++ Bird migration is in full swing ++ Every year, thousands of migratory birds are killed illegally in the Balkans ++ 4th Adriatic Flyway Conference…

World Water Day 2022 - Groundwater: The Liver of our Rivers

The theme of this year’s World Water Day is “making the invisible visible” with a special emphasis on the importance of groundwater.

Hydropower as a climate saviour? A myth long outdated

River valleys are fertile habitats for humans and animals. Destroying them – to generate supposedly climate-friendly hydropower – has nothing to do…

Four Cinereous Vultures poisoned in Bulgaria

Tragedy for nature conservation in Bulgaria: Several released Cinereous Vultures were poisoned near the village of Ticha. A bitter setback for the…

Bird Flu at Lake Prespa, Greece

The H5N1 avian influenza, or ‘bird flu’, virus has been particularly rampant this winter. The death of thousands of cranes in the Hula Valley in…

Can forests really be all things to all people?

We have high expectations of our forests. They should provide diverse habitats, fulfil our wildly-romantic desires, act as carbon sinks and, at the…

Illegal logging of Romania’s natural forests increases despite court threat

New data reveal that the destruction of the EU’s last large remaining primary and old-growth forests in Romania is continuing unabated.

BESTbelt - More power for the European Green Belt

++ EU-funded project „BESTbelt“ starts with calls to proposals ++ Initiative aims to make it easier for local nature conservation organisations…

Last Webinar on White Storks

The four-part webinar series on "Human impacts on the ecology of the white stork" is coming to an end. The last event will take place on Saturday, 19 …

EuroNatur starts new energy transition blog

Are nuclear and gas really sustainable energy sources? The proposals announced by the EU Commission on New Year’s Eve have now come into effect:…