Joint press release by Riverwatch, EuroNatur and the Slovenian Native Fish Society
++ Hydropower project in Slovenia violates domestic and international legislation and threatens rare flora and fauna ++
++ International and Slovenian NGOs call on the Minister of Environment to reject the project – NGOs prepare EU complaint ++
Brežice, October 8, 2015. Today, national and international environmental NGOs as well as experts call on Slovenian Minister of the Environment Irena Majcen to refuse approval of the projected hydropower plant Mokrice on the Sava river due to substantial planning and procedural errors. These would lead to destruction of flora and fauna of the Sava river.
“The Mokrice project is illegal and would mean the end for many fish species. Within the context of the ongoing EIA procedure, we communicated our concerns and arguments to the Slovenian authorities in 18 pages”, says Boštjan Lipnik from the Slovenian Native Fish Society. According to data gathered by environmental organisations, the ongoing EIA procedure is based on seriously flawed investigations with misleading conclusions and is violating Slovenian legislation as well as EU requirements.
In spring 2015, an expert consulted in the context of the EIA procedure for Mokrice came to the conclusion that the project is not environmentally compatible and advised to reject the permit for construction. However, the project applicant HESS (Hidroelektrarne na Spodnji Savi) immediately appointed a new consultant, who came to contrary findings even though the project was not changed at all. The new consultant’s report is now to be assessed within the context of the EIA procedure by Slovenian authorities. Minister of the Environment Irena Majcen is politically responsible for the outcome of this assessment.
“We will file a complaint against this project with the EU Commission since it is clearly violating EU regulations,” so Neža Posnjak, coordinator of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign in Slovenia.
According to the newest study commissioned by Riverwatch and EuroNatur, 47 per cent of all hydropower plants in the Balkans are located in Slovenia – that is, 336 out of 714 plants in operation between Slovenia and Albania. But that is not all: another 181 new hydropower projects are in the pipeline in Slovenia; virtually every river and creek is to be dammed. The dispute about Mokrice is thus not only important for the future of the Sava, but crucial for all Slovenian rivers.
“If planning and regulatory proceedings for these projected power plants will be carried out as deficiently and negligently as for Mokrice, soon no river will remain unharmed in this beautiful country. We need to stop the dam craze of the Slovenian hydropower lobby”, says Ulrich Eichelmann from Riverwatch and international coordinator of the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign.
In light of the following arguments, the EIA is to be rejected:
- The project would affect Natura 2000 protected areas along the Sava and Krka. An environmental impact assessment was not carried out to the required extent and thus constitutes a violation of EU legislation.
- No examination pursuant to the EU Water Framework Directive was carried out. Again, a violation of EU legislation.
- 11 fish species, protected under the EU Habitats Directive are endangered by the project. The proposed mitigation measures for these species are not conducive. Amongst others, the Danube roach (Rutilus virgo) would be affected, a very rare fish species that requires fast-flowing rivers with gravel river beds. If built, Mokrice would destroy one of the most important spawning grounds of this species in Slovenia – if not in the entire Balkan region – namely in the mouth of the Krka into the Sava river. “The planned mitigation measures for this species do not make any sense, as almost the entire habitat of the population will be flooded by the reservoir and thus destroyed. This would not only mean the end for the roach, but also for a number of other endangered species such as the Streber (Zingel streber)", says Prof. Steven Weiss from the Karl-Franzens University in Graz, co-chair of the IUCN Salmonid Specialist Group (SSG).
- Downstream of the dam, the Sava is to be artificially incised all the way to Croatia. This aspect was ignored by the EIA; Croatian authorities were not included in the procedure and a transboundary EIA was not carried out. Another violation of EU legislation. “Existing hydropower plants in Slovenia hold back the river’s sediments. This has lowered the Sava as well as the groundwater level in Croatia by 2-3 meters. As a result, drinking water supply of 1.2 million people in the Zagreb area is at risk. The construction of Mokrice would further exacerbate the situation in Croatia”, so Tibor Mikuška from the Croatian NGO “Society for Bird and Nature Protection".
Further information: This press conference is organised within the context of the international campaign “Save the Blue Heart of Europe”. The rivers on the Balkan Peninsula are threatened by a true dam craze. More than 2,000 new hydropower plants are currently projected from Slovenia to Albania. In order to counteract this spate of destruction, EuroNatur’ and ‘RiverWatch’’ have launched the “Save the Blue Heart of Europe” campaign in cooperation with local partners in the respective Balkan countries.
- Ulrich Eichelmann - Riverwatch - firstname.lastname@example.org +43 676 6621512
- Neza Posnjak - Save the Blue Heart of Europe campaign Slovenia - email@example.com +386 31 549 055
- Andreja Slameršek - Slovenian Native Fish Society - firstname.lastname@example.org
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