Environment

Bulgarians protest to keep ban on building hydropower plants in protected areas

Bulgarians protest keep ban on building hydropower plants in protected areas

Balkanka / Facebook

Published

August 25, 2021

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Published:

August 25, 2021

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Activists and the local population took to the streets throughout Bulgaria to express outrage over the government’s proposal to scrap the ban on the construction of hydropower plants in protected areas.

Citizens have gathered in Sofia and the town of Lukovit as well as near several hydropower plants in Bulgaria to demonstrate against the attempt by the Ministry of Environment and Water to allow hydropower plant projects in the country’s protected areas and sites that are part of the Natura 2000 network.

On top of the proposed amendments to the Water Act, environmental activists and fishing associations including the Balkanka club are warning that the government is proposing to change a recently adopted decree that would legalize hydropower plants that were built without permits to use state-owned land.

The government is proposing to change a recently adopted decree that would legalize hydropower plants that were built without permits to use state-owned land

Caretaker Minister Asen Lichev said only the construction of diversion systems, those that redirect rivers into pipes, would be strictly banned due to the damage they inflict on nature. Bulgaria is in a political crisis as after two general elections there is still no indication that a cabinet will be formed.

A similar proposal to lift the ban was launched early last year, but it was scrapped after protests. Balkanka has been writing complaints for years to domestic institutions and the European Union to highlight breaches in environmental rules in hydropower projects.

Only the construction of diversion systems, those that redirect rivers into pipes, would be strictly banned, according to the proposed amendments to the Water Act

The European Commission has an active case against Bulgaria as the government is ignoring the obligation to regulate protected areas and study the cumulative impact of building several hydropower units next to one another in Natura 2000 sites. Balkanka claims that lobbyists are targeting the Maritsa river and Tundzha, its main tributary.

The fishing club said all but three hydropower plants built since 2003 violated the Spatial Planning Act, also known as Territory Planning Act, Mediapool.bg reported.

Natura 2000 areas make up 34.8% of Bulgaria. Only Slovenia and Croatia have larger shares in the EU.

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