Amid the public outcry against the construction of small hydropower plants (SHPPs) throughout the region, with the latest cases in Štrpce in Kosovo* and at the Krapska river in Macedonia, all interested parties will have the opportunity to exchange views during two meetings in Podgorica – a public debate on planned hydropower plants (HPPs) on Morača river, as well as HPPs in BiH, Montenegro, and Serbia, and the Ministerial Conference on Transition to Sustainable Energy in the Western Balkans.
NGO Green Home will organize a public debate for NGOs and media outlets on Wednesday, February 20, focusing on the development of 4 major HPPs on Morača river, which will be attended by representatives of local NGOs and universities, as well as representatives of international organizations including Riverwatch, WWF Adria, Bankwatch and The Nature Conservancy.
According to the NGO Green Home, the debate is organized ahead of by the Ministerial Conference on Transition to Sustainable Energy in the Western Balkans, which will take place on February 21 in Podgorica. At the conference, the draft regional strategy for the development of HPPs in the Western Balkans will be presented.
The Ministerial Conference is important as it will see the presentation of solutions for the sustainable development of the energy sector, hydropower, reduction of fossil fuels consumption, as well as the approval of the Joint Energy and Environment Ministers’ agreement on the clean energy transition, which relies heavily on hydropower, Green Home said in a press release.
The tendency to include four big HPPs on the Neretva river in BiH and Croatia, as well as 27 more on the Sava river, in Serbia, BiH, and Montenegro, in the accompanying list of projects marked new business opportunities in the region (the Potential Greenfield hydropower project status) is seen as a threat by international, regional and local NGOs, as well as professionals in the sector.
NGOs which will gather at the public debate believe that it is necessary to stop financing hydropower projects as an integral part of sustainable energy sources.
Having in mind that all countries in the region are involved in the EU accession process, environmental impact assessment and stakeholder participation in decision-making in accordance with key EU environmental directives will be required for all HPPs, regardless of their size, Green Home said.
Excavator for construction of SHPP near Štrpce removed
Following a two-month protest, residents of Štrpce in Kosovo* managed to stop the construction of SHPPs on the Bolovanka and Kaluđerka rivers, portal KoSSev reported.
They claim that this plant would jeopardize the supply of local populations with drinking water and the entire eco-system.
The excavator at the construction site Obe Reke was eventually removed.
The decision to halt the construction and remove the excavator was made by the Mayor of Štrpce, but only in the wake of citizens’ protest, said Dobrivoje Stevanović, one of the protest organizers.
Construction, however, has not yet been definitely stopped because the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning, which has received a written submission by the residents, must annul the decision to construct the SHPP.
The permit to use land at the Obe Reke site was given in 2013 by the Štrpce municipal assembly.
This was done even though the law states that a concession or a permit for an SHPP should not be given if it is a drinking water source for residents, Stojan Josimović, another organizer of the protest, said.
Since 2013, construction has been stopped several times, but it has been resumed. The contractor is Matkos Group.
The Štrpce municipality is located in the Mt. Šar nature park.
Power plant near the Balkan Lynx, Brown Bear habitat
Only a few hundred kilometers to the south, near the Krapa village in Macedonia, in the area of rich biodiversity, the construction of SHPPs on Krapska river is in progress. NGO Bankwatch has been trying for over a year to get the environment impact assessment prepared by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) as part of the EUR 4.1 million loan approval for Aktuel Energy Group, Bankwatch said in a press release.
Bankwatch has submitted an official complaint to the bank’s Secretary General, adding that while it is losing months fighting the bureaucracy, another valuable natural asset is disappearing.
The NGO claims that the SHPP is located in the valley of the Krapska river, that could become part of the proposed Jakupica National Park, and which should become part of Jakupica Natura 2000 area upon Macedonia’s entry into the European Union.
The area is the home of endemic and endangered species, including the Balkan Lynx, Brown Bear, and a source of drinking water for surrounding villages.