Living rivers in Romania may be protected by law after a WWF campaign
WWF has been advocating for the last two months against the construction and operation of small hydropower plants in protected areas and in rivers with good and very good ecological status without strategic planning and appropriate environmental assessment.
In recent years smaller rivers almost completely dried up and protected areas in the Romanian Carpathians were literally destroyed. This happened due to the ambiguous legal framework and the lack of strategic planning and well-defined criteria that indicate areas where small hydropower may be built.
“Today we take a first step towards a coherent strategy for the mountain rivers. Our country could be a trailblazer in the field of law, where public interest and pressure exist and authorities are looking at the medium and long-term prospects,” said Magor Csibi, Director of WWF in Romania.
In November 2013 WWF launched a public campaign to save the most valuable rivers, including the designation No-Go areas for the construction of small hydropower. A petition to the Minister for Water, Forests and Fisheries was signed by more than 18,000 Romanians.
According to the protocol signed today, by the end of May 2014 a bill will be adopted to designate exclusion zones. They will include all rivers in protected areas and those rivers with good or very good ecological status. A working group will be set up to develop a mechanism for pre-planning, as well as proposals for legislative harmonization and integration into a law by the end of January 2015. Until then the approval of small hydropower in protected areas will be suspended and all the other authorizations will be monitored.
WWF has already developed a set of criteria for exclusion zones, where maximum protection and exclusion from hydropower projects is required. WWF supports renewable energy, but only when the construction and operations do not cause irreversible damage to nature, with negative effects for local communities and nature.
WWF participated together with other stakeholders in the development of the sustainable hydropower guidelines of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). They recommend to all countries which have signed the Danube Convention to designate exclusion zones and adopt a pre-scheduling mechanism for the development of hydropower. Romania is the first country to accept the recommendations of ICPDR and start the legal proceedings.
WWF is planning a similar river campaign in Bulgaria in 2014 and is currently trying to stop the destruction by hydropower of one of the last undeveloped valleys in Austria – Kaunertal.