Plans for nearly 2,000 dams throughout national parks in several Balkan countries may serve to provide power to the people, but are threatening to destroy the ecosystems surrounding Europe’s last wild waterways in the region. According to RiverWatch, these include 435 dams planned in Albania, 400 in Macedonia and Bulgaria each, 700 in Serbia, more than 100 in Bosnia and Hungary apiece, 70 in Montenegro and more than 50 in Slovenia. in the region. While a number of financial backers in the west insist that hydropower is a “green energy source that offers poor countries a way out of energy insecurity,” the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has decided to pull the plug on one 65million euro project in Macedonia’s Mavrovo National Park after environmentalists from the Bern Convention mission to the Mavrovo national park reported that the planned hydropower dam there was “not compatible” with protection of the park’s status, ecosystems or species and threatened to wipe out the Balkan lynx. (of which there are only 50 left in the wild).The Bern Convention is a legally binding pact between 51 states in Europe and parts of Africa. However, it was noted that 22 other dams are still being planned in the region.
Mavrovo is the country’s oldest and largest national park, comprised of more than 280 sq miles of wilderness is also home to wolves, bears, golden eagles and more than 1,000 different species of plants, including birch and pine forests, gorges, waterfalls, peat lands, as well as Macedonia’s highest mountains. All of these are in danger of deforestation and soil erosion from diverted waterways.
“What we have here in the Balkans at the moment is a gold rush on the rivers,” says Ulrich Eichelmann, the founder and director of RiverWatch, an Austria-based NGO told the Guardian.. “I sometimes think the western countries that are financially supporting this degradation process have no idea what they are destroying. There is nothing in Europe remotely like this river system.”
Ir should also be noted that while similar findings have inspired the cancellation of 2 other major hydro projects planned near Banja Luka, in northern Bosnia, other nations are not as willing to abandon their own projects, and Albania’s prime minister Edi Rama has reportedly backed down on a campaign promise by has granting concessions for ato a Turkish company to build a hydropower plant on the Vjosa River.