Hydropower development in the Dinaric Arc requires more careful analysis to avoid costly projects

Posted on 21 March 2014    
Upper Neretva river (upstream Konjic) where a new dam will be built, Bosnia & Herzegovina
© Michel Gunther WWF

Zagreb, Sarajevo, Podgorica – On the occasion of World Water Day 2014: Water and Energy and in the light of the latest research by the Oxford University WWF is calling on investors to further screen key hydropower projects currently being developed in the Dinaric Arc region. The recently launched Oxford study shows that the benefits of the majority of large dams built in the last 50 years do not necessarily outweigh the costs; moreover the report highlights that there is strong empirical evidence that large dams are usually not the best energy solution.

“Hydropower is a renewable source of energy and in some cases the right choice to meet energy needs. However, hydropower is not a green energy source by default, as hydropower plants can have huge impacts on freshwater ecosystems, fisheries, and flood-dependent agriculture”, said Francesca Antonelli, Head of the Freshwater Unit at WWF Mediterranean.

Sixty per cent of the world’s 227 largest rivers are already severely fragmented, with dams being one of the worst culprits. The Dinaric Arc region is no exception. There is a strong pressure from national decision makers to develop new hydropower projects and there are more than 550 hydropower projects planned to be built in the region without a realistic estimate of their financial, social and ecological costs.

“A really bad example is the hydropower plant Lešće on river Dobra in Croatia, where the investor submerged 12 km of a beautiful canyon together with habitats of several endangered and protected species. The initial estimated cost of the project was 60 million euros which has grown to over 100 million euros, and that’s without the necessary mitigation measures for the local community, which now has to contend with the consequences – downstream erosion, polluted water and flooded fields”, stresses Irma Popović-Dujmović, Freshwater Officer at WWF Mediterranean.

The future of important freshwater ecosystems in the Dinaric Arc region is seriously jeopardised. In 2011, WWF Mediterranean launched the Dinaric Arc Sustainable Hydropower Initiative – DASHI – which aims at improving the way decisions about future hydropower infrastructures are made and existing plants are operated. The Initiative is about engaging with national and international decision makers, carrying out key research and creating public pressure to preserve the most precious freshwater sites in the Dinaric Arc.

Contact: Chantal MENARD, Communications Manager - cmenard@wwfmedpo.org - cell +34 646 75 10 38

Upper Neretva river (upstream Konjic) where a new dam will be built, Bosnia & Herzegovina
© Michel Gunther WWF Enlarge

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