Small hydropower projects threaten again virgin river stretches in the Romanian Carpathians
The environmental documentation for these projects seriously violates both the national legislation and European Union directives and have been repeatedly challenged by several environmental organizations, WWF warns.
The three rivers flow through Tarcu Mountains, part of the EU’s protected areas network Natura 2000. The site was designated for the protection of vulnerable habitats of specific river fish and crayfish among other species.
The environmental permit attached to the Romania's Energy Strategy bans the construction of small hydropower in these protected areas. Moreover, the administration of the Natura 2000 site Tarcu Mountains also gave a negative opinion, as the projects would jeopardize the conservation status of the protected species.
WWF reported many irregularities, both through written complaints and in dedicated meetings, but its position and recommendations were ignored.
Small hydropower fragments river habitats, affecting both fish migration for spawning and the rich river fauna. Forests by the rivers are also destroyed even though they shelter many rare birds and species.
Still, small hydropower is promoted as a source of green energy despite its negative effects on river ecosystems. Meanwhile, rivers with good ecological status like Bistra Marului, Sucu and Olteana have become increasingly rare in Romania. According to national and European legislation, they should be protected by avoiding small hydropower projects.
Last autumn WWF launched a public campaign to save the most valuable Romanian rivers, including the designation No-Go areas for the construction of small hydropower. A petition to the government was signed by more than 18,000 Romanians and it committed to prepare a bill on hydropower production in line with the EU legislation on nature conservation.
Across Central and Eastern Europe, WWF is fighting against a megalomaniac hydropower project in Kaunertal in Tyrol in Austria, and against small hydropower affecting Natura 2000 species and habitats on the Bulgarian tributaries of the Danube River and also in the Ukrainian Carpathians.