Joint press release by Riverwatch, EuroNatur, Eco-sense und Front 21/42
European Convention on Nature Conservation investigates hydropower projects in Mavorovo National Park
Skopje, Strasbourg, Vienna, Radolfzell, December 9, 2014 The Standing Committee of the Bern Convention is initiating proceedings against Macedonia due to the projected construction of hydropower plants in the Mavrovo National Park. A group of experts appointed by the Standing Committee will conduct an on-site assessment of the projected hydropower plants in 2015 and will investigate whether the projects violate the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats. That was the decision of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention at the meeting in Strasbourg on December 2nd. Plans for the hydro projects shall rest until the situation is resolved.
This decision is an important milestone in the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign. Riverwatch and EuroNatur have launched this international campaign in cooperation with partners in the respective Balkan countries in order to save the Balkan Rivers from the destructive scheme of the hydropower lobby. The projected dams in the Mavrovo National Park constitute only one wave of a true dam tsunami that is putting Balkan Rivers at risk.
The Convention’s involvement is important as it supports our efforts to stop the destruction of the Mavrovo National Park and is a wake-up-call for the EBRD and the World Bank to finally withdraw from these projects. The Mavrovo National Park is one of Europe’s oldest national parks. Macedonia intends to hve 18 hydropower plants constructed within the territory of the park, amongst them the two large-scale projects Boskov Most – financed by the EBRD – and Lukovo Pole, which the World Bank intends to fund. Both projects were planned without proper Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Another 16 hydropower plants are entirely being planned without an EIA, since – according to Macedonian law – no such assessment is required for projects up to a capacity of 5 MW. The projected constructions jeopardise the survival of one of the rarest cats in Europe, the critically endangered Balkan Lynx, native to Mavrovo.
“This sudden attention from the Bern Convention Standing Committee should make it clear to our authorities that these projects cannot go ahead as planned, with so many aspects of it being problematic,” says Ana Colovic Lesoska, who presented the Mavorvo case to the Standing Committee on December 2nd.
After the on-the-spot appraisal, the appointed expert group of the Bern Convention will prepare recommendations to be met by Macedonia. “If the country complies with the recommendations...the case will be closed. If Macedonia does not comply...the Standing Committee could recommend other means to mediate the problematic situation”, explains Aleksandra Bujaroska of the Macedonian NGO Front 21/42. “In any case, the attention of the Council of Europe on such issues has historically brought about dramatic changes to initial governmental plans in other countries, so similar effects can be expected in Macedonia” says Ms. Bujaroska.
More about the decisions of the Standing Committee on page 12: List of Decisions and Adopted Texts
Bern Convention: The “Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats” (Bern Convention) was instituted in 1979. Its aim is to create minimum standards for the protection of wild plant and animal species and their natural habitats as well as strict protection of particularly threatened species, foremost of migrating species. www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/nature/Bern/default_en.asp
More information: http://balkanrivers.net/en/key-areas/mavrovo-national-park
Ana Colovic Lesoka, CSO Eko-svest, firstname.lastname@example.org, +38972726104
Aleksandra Bujaroska, CSO Front 21/42, email@example.com +38978433713
Ulrich Eichelmann, Riverwatch firstname.lastname@example.org +43 6766621512
Romy Durst, EuroNatur email@example.com +49 7732 92 72 0