Exclusion zones for hydropower included in Romania’s Energy Strategy
WWF and its partners from the Natura 2000 NGOs Coalition have long been pressing for these measures from the government. In the end they succeeded to influence the integration of important WWF demands regarding hydropower infrastructure in this legal document.
According to the environmental permit of the Energy Strategy, within the sites of the Natura 2000 network, which have been designated to protect species of fish, otters and crayfish or affected habitats, it will be not accepted to build small hydropower.
The development of the energy activities in Romania will have to be based on intermediary pre-planning at regional and river basin level, which takes into account the cumulative effect of investments. “We need to continue advocating for high ecological status according to Water Framework Directive to be included in the exclusion cirteria, together with internationally important protected areas (UNESCO and IUCN category I and II)”, said Diana Popa, Water Policy Officer at WWF Romania.
The construction of small hydropower adversely affects riverbeds if no measures are taken to maintain the appropriate flow to ensure the natural conditions of life of the water species. It also affects the groundwater and hence the water sources of the local communities.
"In Romania, over 430 small hydropower installations are in various stages of planning, permitting and construction. Over a quarter of these are in or near protected areas. Construction of approximately 300 such installations has been approved without any pre-planning at river basin and regional level", Diana Popa explained.
In about three years, two Natura 2000 sites in the Romanian Fagaras Mountains, one of which designated for the protection of endangered species such as otters and different species of fish have been ‘invaded’ by more than 50 small hydropower installations, causing destruction of mountain rivers and species.
Experts say that the multiplication and diversification of pressure on the limited resources of rivers in the world will lead to a reduction in water supply capacity by 40% from current levels by 2030.
WWF will monitor the process of implementation of the new restrictions to all new projects in Romania including those already submitted for approval.