North Macedonia: No-go zones for hydropower projects must be designated

The Ribnicka is one of many small rivers in the Mavrovo National Park. The construction of the power plants and the necessary infrastructure would have fatal consequences for the species-rich area in North Macedonia. © Front 21/42++ NGOs, government representatives, experts, hydropower developers and the local community discuss challenges and solutions at an international conference on nature protection and hydropower projects in North Macedonia ++

Skopje, Vienna, Radolfzell, March 26, 2019 – Yesterday, the first ever national approach for defining no-go zones for hydropower projects was presented at a conference in North Macedonia. The approach is based on the “Eco-Masterplan for Balkan Rivers”, published by the NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur). This spatial plan for the watercourses between Slovenia and Greece defines no-go zones for new hydropower plants on the basis of the ecological value of the respective rivers. According to this scientific assessment, more than 80 % of the assessed river stretches in North Macedonia qualify as no-go zones, covering all protected areas like the Mavrovo National Park.

“The first and most important function of protected areas is to preserve nature – hydropower projects with their devastating Project manager at EuroNatur foundation Theresa Schiller presents the Eco-Masterplan in North Macedonia. On the panel: Aleksandra Bujaroska, CEO Front 21/42, Jani Makraduli, Deputy Minister for Environment and physical planning and Metodija Velevski, Macedonian Ecological Society © Front 21/42effect on nature and biodiversity do not belong in a national park”, said Theresa Schiller, project manager at EuroNatur foundation, one of the NGOs coordinating the campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”.

The local campaign partner in North Macedonia called for urgent designation of no-go zones: ”The new Energy Development Strategy for 2035 must reflect the international biodiversity targets and exclude the identified no-go river stretches from any future hydropower developments”, said Aleksandra Bujaroska, CEO of Front 21/42.

The NGOs’ spatial plan is supported by North Macedonia’s Deputy Minister for the Environment, Jani Makraduli. He recognizes the need to designate no-go zones for hydropower projects and supports the Eco-Masterplan’s conclusions and recommendations: “We should all join forces, us [the Ministry of Environment], the experts, business representatives, the international community, the civil society organizations, to address and solve these challenges together”.

Presentations were followed by fruitful discussions among the different stakeholder groups present, including the hydropower business sector. The conference confirmed the necessity of continuous discussions for finding common solutions. The conclusions of the conference will be submitted to the national authorities in charge of preparing and adopting the new Energy Development Strategy.


Background information

  • Eco-Masterplan for Balkan Rivers and related resources (hand-drawn video, story map, interactive map)
  • This is a joint press release by Front 21/42, Riverwatch and EuroNatur
  • The campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” aims to protect the most valuable rivers in the Balkans from a dam tsunami of about 3,000 planned projects. The campaign is coordinated by the NGOs Riverwatch and EuroNatur and carried out together with partner organisations in the Balkan countries.
  • The North Macedonian Blue Heart campaign team (Front 21/42 and Eko-svest) launched a petition for the protection and against the destruction of the last free rivers in their country. Please sign the petition in Macedonian language (scroll down for information in English)


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