Nearly 15,000 oppose Montenegro plan to drown wild beauty



Posted on 14 April 2010  | 
Montenegro is seeking to attract tourists with a promise of wild beauty - but important elements of that wild beauty are under threat from a dated four dam plan for the country's second largest river.
© WWF MedpoEnlarge
Podgorica, Montenegro: The Montenegro government was yesterday handed a 14,764 signature petition asking it to consider alternatives to its four dam plan for the country’s second most important and most scenic River.

The plan for multiple dams on the Moraça River, which will inundate areas of the Montegnegro capital’s natural and cultural heritage and threatens flows into the Balkan’s largest lake and its fisheries and bird migration reserves, was drawn up 40 years ago.

The petition was initiated just three weeks ago by WWF and its Montenegro partner association Green Home and signatures were collected online and in pedestrian areas of the cities of Budva, Kotor, Ulcinj, Podgorica, Niksic, Bijelo Polje, Kolasin, Mojkovac, Pljevlja, Danilovgrad and Plav. It drew support from 62 national and international conservation and community groups and concerned people in 110 countries.

It was handed to representatives of the Ministry of Environment, during a period for comment on a government review of environmental impacts of the proposal that WWF and Green Home have labeled inadequate in its consideration of impacts and alternatives.

“During the consultation process we have remarked that the assessments done so far do not prove that the dams are necessary,” said Darko Pajovic, Head of Green Home.

“Furthermore alternatives have been proposed by various stakeholders to both produce and save power and widespread support exists for saving the scenic, cultural and environmental values of the Moraça gorge.”

Following the handing over of the petition, WWF and Green Home representatives met with Mr Clive Rumbold, Deputy head of the EU delegation in Montenegro to stress that the probable EU accession candidate country’s major infrastructure plan falls far short of EU standards on river management, and major infrastructure planning and consultation standards.

Mr. Rumbold underlined that as a potential candidate country Montenegro is strongly encouraged to ensure that all new investments are in line with the EU rules and principles. He reiterated the importance of a public consultation and that comments received are fully taken on board.

The government’s own figures show per capita Montenegro power consumption of five times the EU average, with other studies showing transmission losses of more than three times the European rate. More than 50% of the country’s electricity demand comes from an aging and inefficient aluminium plant – KAP, which is currently undergoing serious economic difficulties.

Lake Skadar, listed under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international significance, is one of Europe's five most important wintering sites for birds.

“Montenegro declared itself an ecological state in 1991 and the country now has a unique opportunity to take a leadership for sustainable hydropower development in the Western Balkans," said Francesca Antonelli, Head of the WWF Mediterranean Freshwater Programme.

"Now the world is waiting for the government to stop ticking its way through a 40 year old grand plan for power at huge environmental cost and come up with a modern plan for power which doesn’t involve sacrificing the wild beauty we are promoting internationally.”

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Montenegro is seeking to attract tourists with a promise of wild beauty - but important elements of that wild beauty are under threat from a dated four dam plan for the country's second largest river.
© WWF Medpo Enlarge

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