Last glacial river in the Alps fights hydropower invasion
In 1998 the Austrian Ministry of Agriculture and Environment along with WWF declared the 74 most valuable river routes in Austria as "river sanctuaries" and made a joint commitment to protect them.
Worryingly, there are plans for several large power plants in the basin of the Isel and its tributaries. The most advanced project, at Virgental, will comprise of fifteen kilometers of development - which will divert the river - and will generate 130 gigawatt hours of electricity.
"This project is done completely against nature”, said Bernhard Kohler of WWF Austria. “It doesn’t take into consideration all criteria for environmentally friendly hydropower. However, we fully expect the Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich to stick to the promise of 1998 and endorse the protection of the river Isel sanctuary before the Tyrolean administration”.
"The diversion of the Isel would be a disaster for the river”, Kohler warned. “Currently, the Isel is considered one of the few alpine rivers with their original biodiversity preserved”.
"In the Tyrol, there are now a thousand hydropower plants. Tyrol has already sacrificed enough streams”, said Professor Bernd Lötsch , Chairman of the Board of Trustees of WWF Austria. “The Isel is one of the last relics of European riverine nature. Its rare animals and plants are true treasures. We need permanent protection of the Isel habitats. The construction of such hydropower plants only serves corporate interests and does not help to relieve Austria of its climate debt”.
"We want our Isel to flow freely!”, said Anna-Maria Kerber, spokeswoman for the initiative Osttiroler Iselfrauen. “The river is a living, recreational environment for ourselves, our children as well as for our guests who want to enjoy the unspoiled nature!"