World Wetlands Day warning: Planned hydropower projects could harm wildlife and local communities
Apart from their rich biodiversity, wetlands mitigate the negative effect of climate change and protect millions worldwide from flooding. They also purify our water, give us food, wood and biomass, and provide recreation and employment.
The Danube River basin is home to globally important wetlands, including the so-called “Amazon of Europe” - the Mura-Drava-Danube Biosphere Reserve, with its meandering and free-flowing stretches, steep banks, floodplain forests, gravel and sand banks, and the last nesting Little Terns in Europe.
But the Drava River is under threat from construction of two large hydropower plants in Croatia. The proposed location of the two hydropower plants, Molve 1 and Molve 2, projects construction along the river with a total length of almost 30 km. WWF and other organizations of the environmental coalition ‘Drava League’ call on the Croatian government to re-consider the decision.
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.
Meanwhile in Slovakia, local people with civil society support are appealing in court the Environmental Impact Assessment of a planned small hydropower plant on the Hron River. The middle section of the Hron recently became part of the EU’s Natura 2000 network of protected sites with the aim to improve the conservation status of the fish species.
On a positive note, recently, a Romanian court cancelled the licenses to build a series of hydropower plants that could have destroyed the Jiu River in the heart of the Jiu Gorge National Park. More than 30,000 people signed a petition to stop the construction, which has been under development for the past 12 years. The future of the project is still unclear.