New hope for Balkan Rivers

Creek flowing through a forest

The Lukovo Pole hydropower plant will channel the flow of several tributaries of the Radika river into a reservoir.

© EuroNatur

World Bank drops funding for hydropower project in Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia +++ Other financiers must follow suit

Joint press release by EuroNatur and Riverwatch, 21 December 2015

Radolfzell, Vienna.  The World Bank withdrew its funding for one of the two big hydropower projects inside Mavrovo National Park in Macedonia. This is another stage win for the protection of Balkan rivers from the destruction by the hydro lobby. “The World Bank was long overdue to take this step. Hydropower plants stand in contradiction to the protection of biodiversity and have no place in protected areas such as the Mavrovo National Park”, says Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of nature conservation foundation EuroNatur.

„The World Bank set an example by dropping the funding for the hydropower plant Lukovo Pole. Now, financiers of numerous other hydropower projects within protected areas in the Balkans must follow suit, most notably the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)”, demands Ulrich Eichelmann from Riverwatch. After this first step, the World Bank still has a great deal of catching up to do: major international banks are the leading investors of the Balkan dam craze, which threatens to destroy the last intact rivers of our continent. According to a study by finance-NGO Bankwatch, the World Bank, EBRD and European Investment Bank (EIB) are currently financing hydropower projects with a total of €818 million in funds, severely endangering 30 protected areas such as national parks and Nature 2000 sites. The EBRD is the biggest investor: the bank supports 21 hydropower projects in midst of protected areas – amongst them the Mavrovo National Park, in which the Macedonian government plans the construction of a total of 22 hydropower plants.

On December 4, 2015, the Bern Convention (one of Europe’s most important nature conventions) called upon the Macedonian government to stop all construction projects inside the national park and conduct an extensive environmental impact assessment. The recommendations are also directed at the international financiers of the hydropower projects, particularly at the EBRD. “The construction of hydropower plants 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 and the Word Bank’s withdrawal from the Lukovo Pole project is only the beginning ”, says Gabriel Schwaderer.


Background information

  • 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.
  • With 1,138 currently known animal species and 1,435 plant species, the Mavrovo National Park is a European hotspot for biodiversity. It is also the last known area, in which the critically endangered Balkan Lynx is still reproducing. The construction of hydropower projects and accompanying infrastructure (roads, power lines, pipelines etc.)  is putting one of the species’ last remaining habitats at risk. More information about the Mavrovo National Park
  • Press release “New Bankwatch study: European “green energy” funding for hydropower threatens pristine Balkan rivers” from December 15, 2015
  • Press release “Stage win for nature protection: Bern Convention demands provisional stop for the construction of HPPs in Mavrovo NP in Macedonia” from December 7, 2015
  • The campaign's partners in Macedonia: Front 21/42, Eko-Svest, MES



EuroNatur, Konstanzer Str. 22, 78315 Radolfzell, Tel.: +49 7732 - 92 72 10,
katharina.grund(at), contact person: Gabriel Schwaderer, press contact: Katharina Grund
Riverwatch: contact person: Ulrich Eichelmann,  Tel.: +43 676 6621512, ulrich.eichelmann(at)

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