Slovenia Set to Scrap Hydropower Plants on Protected River - Hydro Balkans
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Slovenia Set to Scrap Hydropower Plants on Protected River

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Slovenia may abandon plans to build up to eight hydropower plants on the Mura river in what would be a win for local environmentalists, Reuters reports.
Studies showed there were no “environmentally acceptable” variants for the projects on the river in eastern Slovenia, the Environment Ministry said.

Part of the Mura floodplain was declared a UNESCO biosphere reserve last year, complicating plans for the power plants.

The ministry based its decision on the irreversible environmental impact of the projects and the dangers they pose to the potable water supply of 46,000 inhabitants along the river, WWF reports.

The government will decide whether to approve the ministry’s proposal following a two-week public consultation period.

The anti-dam campaign in Slovenia is part of a movement across the Balkans to reverse plans for thousands of mostly small hydropower plants on the region’s rivers, many of them as yet untamed.

Ecologists can also take comfort from the European Union’s vacillating stance on Balkan hydropower.

Originally supporting hydropower as a way to reduce the region’s carbon footprint, the EU more recently has been urging Balkan governments to back out of them, author Paul Hockenos wrote last year for Yale Environment 360.

The power industry and other proponents say development of its huge hydroelectric potential can help the region repair damage to its energy infrastructure sustained during the conflicts and resulting economic downturn in the 1990s.

Only about a third of the estimated hydropower potential of more than 8,400 megawatts has been developed, the International Hydropower Association said in 2017.

Proposals to construct 3,000 hydropower plants stretching from Slovenia to Albania represented a rushed attempt to meet the rising demand for electricity in the region, the clean energy goals under the Paris Climate Agreement, as well as the EU’s sustainability standards, Reuters wrote in April 2018.

Last month, protesters in Belgrade demanded the Serbian government stop the planned construction of roughly 850 hydro power plants across the country, Renewables Now reports.

In 2017, the environmental network Bankwatch published a study on the impact of eight European-financed small hydropower plants in Albania, Macedonia, and Croatia.

All eight plants “have damaged biodiversity and are in urgent need of increased monitoring and restoration measures,” the study claimed.

If plans to recognize an Austrian stretch of the Mur/Mura come to fruition this year, protected areas of the river could be joined up to reserves on the Drava and Danube to form a five-country biosphere reserve, WWF says.

Thirty percent of large Balkan rivers were classified as pristine or “near-natural” and half were in good condition – much better figures than in Western Europe, according to a 2012 report

Source: TOL

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