WWF starts a campaign to save the mountain rivers of Romania

Posted on 15 November 2013    
The most valuable mountain rivers in Romania should be put under legal protection
© Dan Dinu
Bucharest – In the first day of a new WWF campaign more than 4,400 people signed a petition to put the most valuable mountain rivers in Romania under legal protection. They are threatened by different interventions including over 500 small hydropower plants in various stages of approval, construction or operation.

The WWF campaign raises issues such as biodiversity threats by placing small hydropower on rivers with high ecological value, ignoring risks and cumulative impacts, construction without proper planning and neglect of economic and social impact.

The petition at the website http://www.raurileromaniei.ro is aiming the Minister of Forests, Water and Fisheries Lucia Varga, who has already stated that the WWF campaign is justified. The minister plans to launch a public debate and prepare a new legislation on the issue.

“Our campaign to save the mountain rivers or Romania is not intended to stop economic development. On the contrary, it seeks to implement a long-term economic vision for people and nature. The importance of water is becoming increasingly evident globally. We support renewable energy, but only in the context of the construction and operation which does not cause irreversible damage to nature, with negative effects to local communities, nature and the country. The current chaotic development of small hydropower plants has created serious damage in most cases, putting in jeopardy not only nature, but also the sustainability of many areas. The WWF campaign aims to generate debate around these issues and finally create a framework for the development of these investments in Romania, so that they comply with local communities and nature, bringing benefit to all citizens”, said Magor Csibi, director of WWF-Romania.

Over a quarter of the 500 planned or already working small hydropower plants are in or next to protected areas. Construction of some 300 of them has been approved without any strategic planning at river basin level and at national level.

While the use of energy from renewable sources is promoted at EU level, it is known that hydropower infrastructure has major negative effects on aquatic ecosystems and the services they provide at local and regional level. Meanwhile, rivers and floodplains with high ecological status have become increasingly rare in Romania.

The petition of WWF-Romania asks the authorities:

- to designate no-go areas where small hydropower construction is not allowed (WWF has already proposed a set of criteria for this) and implement clear mechanisms for sustainable pre-planning of the sector;

- to suspend the authorization process and construction of new hydropower plants before a pre-planning process in order to prevent further environmental disasters in the Romanian rivers;

- to change the legislation approving the construction and operation of small hydropower plants, in order to address the problems identified by WWF experts.

In 2011 WWF-Romania’s campaign "Save the virgin forests” gathered more than 100,000 signatures and helped change the law in favour of old-growth forests. The current campaign Mountain Rivers: Last Chance" follows the same model.

WWF has been working on a similar river campaign in Ukraine and will start another one in Bulgaria next year. It is also currently trying to stop the destruction by hydropower of one of the last undeveloped valleys in Austria – Kaunertal.
The most valuable mountain rivers in Romania should be put under legal protection
© Dan Dinu Enlarge
Carpathian mountains are threatened by disastrous small hydropower projects
© WWF-DCP Enlarge
Rivers and floodplains with high ecological status have become increasingly rare in Romania
© Dan Dinu Enlarge

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