Balkan rivers are crying for help

Balkan rivers are crying for help

Protests that take the form of a whistle-blowing complaint are “choking” the Balkans in an attempt to save the water resources of the countries in the region.

The implementation of European plans for the development of hydropower through the creation of a series of dams on large and smaller rivers in the Balkans has been in progress since the beginning of the year.

This has mobilised the inhabitants of the regions concerned who hope to maintain the ecosystem and the functioning of the local economy, which is based on tourism.

A typical example of environmental intervention is the case of the Valbona valley in Albania, between Montenegro and Kosovo, where the corrosion of the river bed that has crossed it has already begun.

According to RiverWatch and EuroNatur, the Balkans are currently the “Mecca” of hydroelectric power, as it is planned to build 3,000 dams to produce electricity.

More specifically, the registration of the 2,796 hydroelectric units expected to be built in SE Europe, from Slovenia to Greece, has already been completed.

Always according to the same source, corruption, ignorance of the effects of climate change and economic interests are the causes of this imminent disaster, while 37% of the dams are to be built in protected areas, national parks or in NATURA zones.

“In 2015 – as the Bankwatch-CEE organization says – the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in co-operation with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the World Bank Finance Corporation – IFC – World Bank) gave the green light to fund 21 different projects in internationally protected areas.”

In a statement, Bankwatch notes that in January 2018, € 727 million was available from banks to finance hydroelectric dams in the Balkans and to change and divert the bed of the largest rivers in the region.

At a time when, theoretically speaking, the EU “takes care” of the protection of the environment and biodiversity.

Is this funding not in contradiction with what the EU expects? According to Bankwatch-CEE, the findings in most studies have been falsified.

After a lot of ‘pushing’, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development had to withdraw funding of € 65 million in the case of the creation of a hydropower unit in the Mavrovo National Park in fYROMacedonia, as was the case in Croatia connected with the Ombla river near Dubrovnik.

The alternative seems to have been found immediately as the EBRD has invested in photovoltaics.

“Hydroelectricity is one of the worst forms of electricity generation” according to RiverWatch, the fact that carbon emissions are not limited in the meantime does not mean that this form of energy can automatically be integrated into RES.

In Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as in Albania, the residents of the regions are reacting to the construction of the dams. Apparently, in some cases, their voice is heard. For the salvation of the river Sava, which runs through the territories of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Slovenia, Vjosa in Albania and the Mavrovo National Park in fYROMacedonia, however, it seems that there is still a struggle.

A campaign called “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” is supported by a large number of organisations in Europe such as Riverwatch, EuroNatur, Mava Fondation Pour La Nature, ECA Watch, Ökobüro et CEE Bankwatch Network. Recently, the American clothing company Patagonia is giving a hand to the campaign…. / IBNA