Good news has reached us from Montenegro! Its government has announced its recent decision to stop licensing construction of new small hydropower plants. The stop is temporary, at least until all contracts concludes thus far have been reviewed. As Balkan Green Energy News reports, the government already stopped constructions on the Slatina river, a total of seven by December 29th.
Please also read: Hydropower tsunami – shouldn’t there be something that we don’t destroy?
Europe’s Blue Heart
In fact, we have dammed, corded or bridged most of the European rivers over the past centuries. The actual numbers remain unclear, as an overview is missing where these important waterways are obstructed. Official public databases seem to contain only a portion of the data, and several initiatives, such as the AMBER Initiative, are trying to complete it. By focusing to map the river barriers, these initiatives help to improve its adaptive management. Just recently, scientists collated data on European rivers from over 120 databases. When the scientists cross-checked their data with field visits, they found that the number of barriers is in fact nearly twice as high as previously thought. The results suggest that more than 1.2 million barriers block the free-flowing European rivers.
Critical is the so-called ‘Blue Heart of Europe’, spanning across the Balkans and south-eastern Europe. There are NGOs, such as EuroNatur and Riverwatch, who have been campaigning to save the Blue Heart for many years.
Last November, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced to stop subsidies for small hydropower plants, Balkan Green Energy News reports. The announcement of Montenegro’s government to halt construction of similar new small hydropower plants might indicate a new trend. One could conclude that this is the result from increasing public pressure, as people are discontent over the environmental impact of the hydropower plants. The government of Montenegro decided to first review all concluded small hydropower plant contracts, before approving new ones. Especially, they want to review the procedure and legality of concession agreements made.
Saving the last WILDRivers in Europe
This region of Europe hosts some of the last (largely) untouched wild free-flowing rivers. It is thus of great importance to re-evaluate the need for small hydropower plants in the region. With public support, the demand to protect Europe’s last free-flowing WILDRivers grows as well. The European Wilderness Network already includes several precious WILDRivers. Yet, these WILDRivers are also continuously under pressure. Although river lie within strictly protected areas, construction of new barriers is difficult. Nevertheless, legislative loopholes are often used by local lobbyists to plan and build small-scale hydropower plants.
Support us to protect these WILDRivers, as well as the great initiatives across Europe that work on removing barriers to bring back the free-flowing rivers.
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