Cross-border UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Mura-Drava-Danube endangered by large hydropower plants
Construction of the hydropower plants will destroy the most valuable part of the Drava River. The Drava is part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network of specially protected sites, the Mura-Drava Regional Park as well as the cross-border Mura-Drava-Danube UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. From its source in Italy, the Drava is already under pressure of 22 hydropower plants, three of which are in the upper flow in Croatia.
Plans for the two hydropower projects were tabled before Croatia’s accession to the European Union and before designation of Natura 2000 areas in Croatia, establishment of the Mura-Drava Regional Park as well as before the creation of the UNESCO Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve with Hungary. This makes the plans for the hydropower plants inconsistent with Croatia’s new environmental legislation and regulations.
“WWF is committed to sustainable hydropower and system-scale planning of hydropower and other energy projects, but opposes the construction of hydropower plants within protected areas. It is important to think strategically when it comes to hydropower plants. Modernization of existing hydropower systems and their regular maintenance will also increase the capacity of electricity production. With the construction of Molve 1 and Molve 2, the landscape of this area will be completely changed from a natural, flowing river to a series of reservoirs,” said Ivana Korn Varga, Project Officer at WWF-Adria.
Due to the reservoirs, the groundwater level of the river will further decrease and negatively affect agriculture, forestry and livelihood in the area. This causes serious concerns regarding the future status of the Drava River and the downstream areas of these two dams. Reservoirs will also have a negative impact on the forestry in the region, and will destroy the habitats of numerous plant and animal species.
“The area of the Mura, Drava and Danube rivers is of exceptional nature value, with rich floodplain forests and wetlands that offer home to many protected and endangered species, such as otter and beaver, white-tailed eagles, sturgeon and Danube salmon. We can greatly benefit from river restoration projects, cross-sector cooperation and tourism development, to ensure sustainable river management for the well-being of the people living along the rivers and the species that depend on them,” said Korn Varga.