Serbian Minister of Environmental Protection Goran Trivan has announced an initiative to change the country’s nature protection law to avert the construction of small hydropower plants (HPP) in protected areas, after his recent attempt to pull approval for the Pakleštica small HPP, threatening to hurt biodiversity in the Visočica river basin, was quashed by a court.
“For Mt. Stara Planina alone, there are over 60 construction requests. That’s sheer horror, the nature will be destroyed. Over the past year, I have been trying to create an environment in which one can openly say: ‘Building small HPPs in protected areas is not the smartest thing.’ I will fight to the end and you can’t put a price on it – we have serious support from citizens to effect change, but this will take some time,” Trivan told Insajder.
According to Trivan, permits already issued to build small HPPs in protected areas can be discussed with the Ministry of Mining and Energy and the investors in question, with the aim of providing the investors with other locations better suited for hydropower projects.
Meanwhile, Minister of Construction, Transportation, and Infrastructure Zorana Mihajlović said it is Trivan’s right to seek to change laws regulating his ministry’s portfolio, adding that she has “nothing against anything” that can improve environmental protection, local media reported.
However, Mihajlović also bemoaned the fact that Serbia has used less than 50 out of some 800 locations designated for small hydropower plants.
Environmental civil society organizations (CSO) have recently stepped up campaigning against hydropower projects in the Balkans.
According to a recent study by Bankwatch, one of the largest networks of environmental CSOs in Central and Eastern Europe, South-East Europe’s (SEE) wild rivers are being destroyed by a wave of hydropower projects. The study investigated the situation in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
( * This designation is without prejudice to positions on status and is in line with UNSCR 1244/99 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.)