Hydropower threats in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine
Bratislava/Bucharest/Kyiv/Sofia – On the eve of World Wetlands Day – 2 February – WWF warns that hydropower projects and government decisions in ecologically sensitive areas threaten to harm the habitats of rare and endangered species in the countries along the Danube river, particularly in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Ukraine. With regard to hydropower, WWF is active to ensure that energy requirements are met with options that also consider environmental and social impact.
Small hydropower plants may now be built in protected Natura 2000 sites in Slovakia. A hydropower plant project in Romania endangers Defileul Jiului National Park – a protected Natura 2000 area, while in Ukraine and Bulgaria current hydropower policies are not able to ensure strong wildlife protection. Non-coordinated construction plans could negatively affect clean water, fisheries and tourism, among others. WWF calls for stronger control over ongoing hydropower projects and efficient policy changes for nature protection.
Slovak government allows construction of small hydropower plants in Natura 2000 areas
In January 2017 the Slovak government approved a concept that defines the trend in construction of small hydropower plants in Slovakia by 2030. The concept is not based on proper analysis of the hydropower energy potential of the country and hydropower development may harm important river ecosystems. The currently approved policy also allows construction of small hydropower plants in existing and proposed sites from the EU's Natura 2000 network. The policy has been approved despite the fact that Slovakia faces an EU infringement procedure started in 2014.
A coalition that brings together experts, local governments, canoe clubs, fishermen, tourists and NGOs appeals to the government to protect the environment and defend the interests of the local communities living near rivers. Even though the number of spots for construction of small hydropower plans has been reduced, the list still contains 58 new ones on top of those that are already in development.
Hydropower plant project in Defileul Jiului National Park threatens a valuable nature site
Defileul Jiului National Park - a protected Natura 2000 area in Romania, faces many threats due to old construction permits not in line with the latest environmental requirements and EU laws. The planned construction will destroy 33 km of river course and will harm the park ecosystem. WWF-Romania together with local NGOs and activists take actions to stop the harming hydropower plant project and ask the authorities to renew the old construction permit procedure in accordance with the EU legal requirements.
An online petition urges people to support the resumption of the environmental permit for the hydropower plant in Defileul Jiului National Park: https://campaniamea.de-clic.ro/petitions/opriti-distrugerea-defileului-jiului
Bulgarian government should take a strong position on hydropower development
In Bulgaria, the Ministry of Environment is postponing important decisions regarding protection of rivers and wetlands from harming hydropower plants construction. In September, fishing clubs and WWF-Bulgaria appealed an improperly issued permit for hydropower plant project across Cherni Iskar and Gorna Perka in Rila Mountain, which will be devastating for the river ecosystems and their biodiversity. Four months later – which is after the legal deadline - there is no response from the Ministry of Environment.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment has still not designated Rila Buffer as a site from the EU's network Natura 2000. Rila Buffer is aimed to preserve the nature, to conserve the forests and rivers from damages and construction. The rivers Cherni Iskar and Gorna Perka fall into this planned territory for protection, but because of the vague status of the area the hydropower permit was not cancelled. Because of the delay with the Natura 2000 area designation, Bulgaria was sent to court by the European Commission.
Better policy on hydropower development needed in Ukraine
In Ukraine, the government approved a hydropower development program by 2026 which lacks consistency and does not incorporate strong environmental and nature protection. The program could lead to the destruction of river basins and nature ecosystems that are important for local communities, biodiversity loss and conservation failure.
Hydropower development, as an industry with high environmental risks, should be regulated by policies which ensure transparent planning, relevant procedures and compatibility with international and national environmental legislations. The current policy is not able to fully eliminate the loss of biodiversity and is often only half-heartedly applied. The development of renewable energy sources in Ukraine should be led strategically and in a coherent way, aiming at minimizing additional anthropogenic pressure on ecosystems.