Environmental Research and Information Center Eko-svest expressed its opposition to the proposed changes to the Law on Agricultural Land in North Macedonia. It warned that the bill would allow the permanent conversion into construction land for renewable energy plants. The organization suggested using degraded surfaces instead.
Climate change has a negative effect on all aspects of human life. The transition to renewables is necessary to alleviate the impact. But such facilities, especially solar power plants, take up large surfaces, which means they can jeopardize agriculture and ecosystems.
Food production is already affected by climate change, which is why Skopje-based Environmental Research and Information Center Eko-svest said it is opposing the proposed changes to the Law on Agricultural Land in North Macedonia. The organization specified that the draft envisages the possibility of permanent conversion to construction land for the installation of renewable energy plants.
Agricultural land shouldn’t be converted for the purpose of building energy or industrial facilities
“We are worried that the proposed possibility to permanently repurpose most fertile agricultural land for hydroelectric stations, thermal power plants, nuclear power plants, wind power plants, concentrated solar power plants, biofuel-fired power plants and ground-mounted solar and photovoltaic plants would limit the use of fertile land in the country for the production of food for the population. Agricultural land shouldn’t at all be converted to construction land for energy or industrial facilities,” the statement reads.
At the same time, the bill runs counter to the government’s current agricultural and rural development policy and to climate policy from the past three years, Eko-svest underscored. It may increase the risk of imports of fruit and vegetables of unknown origin as well as food costs, the group added.
There are other locations for renewable energy projects
Studies have shown there are many locations more suitable than agricultural and valuable natural areas and that projects in such zones don’t negatively affect the local population. Examples are former mines and landfills and abandoned industrial facilities.
In cooperation with the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU), Eko-svest has published a study and methodology for selecting mines and other brownfield locations for the construction of wind farms and solar parks in North Macedonia. Another key point is that they identified five degraded land sites.
Redirecting investments to degrated land would result in almost eight times more electricity output than all the power plants currently installed in the country generate
Eko-svest and MANU have produced a map of sustainable locations for renewable energy projects. In addition, they found that redirecting investments to half of the designated areas would result in almost eight times more electricity output than all the power plants currently installed in the country generate.
The environmentalist group urged for the protection of land from degradation, erosion and pollution. It called on the authorities to facilitate funding and investments in agroecological measures like the conservation of indigenous animal breeds and plant species.