Eco-Masterplan for Balkan Rivers: Drawing a Line in the Sand

Produced by the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign, this masterplan for the Balkan rivers defines river stretches of high ecological value in the region, including in Albania, and provides a spatial plan for their protection. It identifies “no-go” areas along important river stretches, where hydropower development would be damaging to extraordinary natural ecosystems.

The study provides prospective outcomes for the socio-economic development of the area, by comparing the increase of income and local welfare through hydropower installation on the one and the establishment of a National Natural Park on the other hand, over a period of 35 years, concluding that hydropower dams would have ‘a negative impact on the socio-economic, environmental and biological aspects of the area’, since they would cause a loss of employment in the agriculture-livestock sector and tourism – the area’s current mainstay.  

The analyses conclude that the Vjosa valley would benefit socio-economically by turning into a National Natural Park; as such, employment would be increased, while the generated income would reach the local communities. Especially solarpower, instead of hydropower, as a prospective energy source bears the potential of improving the infrastructure of the valley in line with the conservation of the valley’s assets.

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New Study: Biodiversity, potential impacts, and legal framework for hydropower development of the Vjosa

This baseline survey summarises the value of the Vjosa River system as one of the few remaining reference sitesfor dynamic floodplains in Europe on the one hand, and reveals the detrimental effects dams could have on the river system on the other. Only one dam will significantly destroy the ecological continuum of a pristine river.  Spearheaded by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, this study documents over 1100 species, including high numbers and vital populations of many protected and endangered species that are listed in national and international laws and conventions, highlighting the significance of this natural environment on an international scale. The actual number of species is likely to be much higher, as this survey was time-limited, revealing only snapshots.

The study raises three main arguments against the proposed development of HPPs, such as the Kalivaç HPP, along the Vjosa River. The construction of the Kalivac hydropower plant would

  1. Cause severe biodiversity loss and local extinctions by cutting off 881km of rivers and streams of the total 1,109 km.
  2. Be in direct violation of signed laws, Directives and Conventions. 
  3. Have high economic costs owing to sediment-related problems and loss of tourism. 


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Yale: A Balkan Dam Boom Imperils Europe’s Wildest Rivers

The Article of the online magazine Yale Environment 360 “A Balkan Dam Boom Imperils Europe’s Wildest Rivers” by Paul Hockenus is about the impact of the planned hydropower plants in the Balkan peninsula for the environment and the local residents. Nearly 2700 dam projects are planned or under construction from Slovenia to Greece according to a study by RiverWatch and EuroNature. A detailed assessment of 22000 miles of Balkan rivers commissioned by WWF and other conservation groups has classified 30 % of the region’s rivers as pristine or “near-natural” and another 50 % as in good condition. That is a sharp contrast to the situation in Western Europe, where most rivers have been dammed or subjected to intensive development. Scientists and conservationists say that if the proposed scale of Balkan dam building proceeds, thousands of miles of waterways, home to scores of endemic or endangered species, will be irreversibly degraded and polluted. The Balkan rivers are home to 69 endangered species and contain more than 40 % of all the endangered freshwater mollusk species in Europe. In addition to the environmental impacts there are a lot of villages which will be flooded so the locals have to to move.

The European Union, which had originally supported hydropower projects in the name of zero-carbon energy, is now urging governments in southeastern Europe to back out of them.

To read the full article click here.

A Balkan Dam boom imperils europes wildest rivers

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Euronews: Green dams ‘hit’ West Balkans biodiversity, locals’ water supply

The Article “Green dams ‘hit’ West Balkans biodiversity, locals’ water supply” by Raluca Besliu which was published in Euronews is about the impact of the hydropower plants on the environment and on the locals and is about the financing situation of the hydroelectric projects. Small-scale hydropower projects are rising across the Balkans. They are destroying the region’s wild rivers and threatening one of Europe’s most biodiverse areas, according to environmental groups because they divert water, which often leave the rivers dry and interrupt fish migration patterns. Despite the environmental damages that these plants produce, governments and companies are continuing to fund their construction. European public banks, particularly the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the European Investment Bank (EIB), are financing many of them.

 To read the full article click here.

green dams hit west balkans biodiversity locals water supply

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