Wednesday, 1 December 2021 | News today: 0

World Water Day – hydro-power plants endanger Balkan rivers

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The international organizations focused on nature preservation, EuroNatur and Riverwatch on the occasion of World Water Day point out that more than 570 hydro-power plants (> 1 MW) are planned to be built between Slovenia and Albania, stressing that one of the most significant natural treasures of Europe is at stake – rivers.

“We have to stop this dam craze. Many of these projects violate EU laws, making their funding through international investors even more scandalous. Hydropower is not green but destroys precious natural landscapes” – says Ulrich Eichelmann, CEO of Riverwatch – an international society for the protection of rivers.

“Hydro-power plants are being proposed without regard for nature and people, even in national parks. This is unacceptable and hampers the potential for sustainable economic development in the respective countries. Hydroelectric development must take aspects of nature conservation into account. A masterplan for the protection of the most valuable natural rivers in the region is
imperative” – says Gabriel Schwaderer, CEO of EuroNatur.

The Balkan Peninsula is the only place in the continent where one can find such a tremendous number and variety of pristine, wild rivers, crystal clear streams, extensive gravel banks, untouched alluvial forests, spectacular waterfalls, and even karstic underground rivers, according to them.

Both organizations assessed the hydro-morphology (the structural intactness of the river) of about 35,000 river kilometers on the Balkan Peninsula, researched existing and planned hydro-power plants, and conducted a study on fish and mollusc (mussels and snails) biodiversity.

The results are both impressive and alarming. 30 % of the rivers are in a natural, another 50% in a near-natural structural condition.
In Albania and Montenegro, even more than 60% of the rivers are unspoiled. In comparison to the rest of Europe: Germany 10%, Austria 6%. The Balkan rivers are a major hotspot for biodiversity on the continent: 69 fish species are endemic to the Balkan. Furthermore, 151 rare species of freshwater molluscs live in these rivers, representing 40.5% of all endangered mollusc species in
Europe.

The projected hydro-power plants put the survival of 70% – 75% of these endangered species in jeopardy, according to the study.