Montenegro revives 40 year old plan to drown wild beauty



Posted on 28 July 2014  | 
Pygmy cormorants, Skadar lake, Montenegro.
Pygmy cormorants, Skadar lake, Montenegro.
© WWF-Canon / M. GuntherEnlarge
Podgorica, Montenegro: The government of Montenegro has revived a plan to erect four dams on the Moraca river abandoned after an international outcry and a lack of investors less than three years ago.

The government – which seeks to attract tourists under the slogan “wild beauty” – is bringing the dam plan back under its just announced “Energy Development Strategy to 2030”, which according to WWF and its Montenegro partner Green Home is mainly new window dressing for the discredited scheme.

“This scheme has never been assessed in any rigorous way against any rigorous standard,” said Green Home director Natasa Kovačević. “Montenegro has a constitution which declares it to be an “ecological State” but we are being served up, yet again, with an energy plan that marries technologically and environmentally outdated technologies with unrealistic forecasts.

“The power that Montenegro needs should be coming from modernising electricity infrastructure that loses and wastes more power than any other in Europe – and at a fraction of the cost of building destructive and unnecessary dams.”

The Morača River, is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in Europe and provides two thirds of the flows into Lake Skadar, the biggest lake in the Balkans and one of the most important bird and fish habitats in the Mediterranean region. According to research conducted in 2008, the canyon of the Morača, and tributaries the Mrtvica and Mala Rijeka, identified 42% of birds nesting in Montenegro , the majority of which are under national or international protection.

An independent audit of the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment of the Energy Development Strategy done by WWF, Green Home, MANS and SEEChange.net confirmed that the Strategy revolves around unsuitable locations and abounds with insufficient data and calculations and unrealistic forecasts.

“Montenegro is a candidate country to the EU and is required to implement several EU Directives. What we see is that the new energy strategy ignores the recommendations of the Water Framework Directive, the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, which require that governments avoid projects that could endanger the quality of the environment and of freshwater ecosystems, unless they are of vital national importance, which the Government of Montenegro failed to prove. We will keep watching and fighting if necessary” said Francesca Antonelli of WWF Mediterranean Programme.

WWF worked with the International Hydropower Association among a broad range of international organisations including the World Bank, to draw up the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocols for dam projects.  The Protocol measures the sustainability performance of hydropower plans and projects against international good and best practices and ensures better analysis of the necessity for projects, the viability of alternatives, and more adequate reporting and consultation.

“This is the level at which this project needs to be assessed,” said Dr. Jian-hua Meng, Water Security Lead for WWF International.

 For further information: Chantal MENARD, Communications Manager, WWF Mediterranean: cmenard@wwfmedpo.org
Pygmy cormorants, Skadar lake, Montenegro.
Pygmy cormorants, Skadar lake, Montenegro.
© WWF-Canon / M. Gunther Enlarge

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